start of the next cold war? – Palatinate

By Rosie Knighton

As Russian troops pile up on Ukraine’s borders amid frantic Western attempts at diplomatic negotiations, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said “it may be [Putin] just puts out his tanks and we all go home, but there’s a whiff of Munich in the air for some westerners. The situation is reaching a breaking point, with the UK Foreign Office last week telling all UK nationals to leave Ukraine while they still can. Sure, there’s a whiff of Munich in the air, but taking a longer-term comparison, could this be the start of the next Cold War?

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many sources have been declassified, allowing historians to reinterpret Cold War history. In popular memory, the fear attributed to war is very real. For example, in recently collecting oral histories, the BBC showed how the war had affected people’s daily lives – one man said it still haunts him today: “I still remember watching the president on TV and being so scared I had chills.

In popular memory, the fear attributed to the Cold War is very real

More than perhaps at any other time in the period, the “thirteen days” of the Cuban Missile Crisis were framed as the time when the Cold War was most likely to get “hot”. Following the declassification of sources, exchanges between the Kennedy and Khrushchev figures suggest that, for their part, “hot”, and in the case of the Cuban crisis, war, was never the desired outcome. .

Writing to Kennedy on the 27thand In October, Khrushchev said that “these problems have so far not been solved, but they await an urgent solution.” In response the next day, Kennedy replied that “the United States government will be prepared to discuss these matters with urgency and in a constructive spirit”.

Such sources have led analysts such as Ray Cline to actually see the odds of war in this supposed period of “maximum danger” as small as one in a thousand. However, what Cline fails to recognize is the depth of the situation in Cuba. For example, on the same day that Kennedy wrote this letter to Khrushchev, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down on the orders of the commanding general at the time, Lieutenant General Stepan Greko. While Khrushchev’s and Kennedy’s agendas at this point may not have been to pursue a “hot” war, the nature of the chain of command meant that things could happen, both quickly and irreversibly. .

Why, then, is it relevant to the situation in Ukraine? Well, first of all, it’s important to note that Russia hasn’t invaded Ukraine yet. As Wallace said, this could all blow up, and as some claim, Putin doesn’t want to invade Ukraine, he’s just trying to pressure the West and NATO.

Will the tenuous nature of the situation first lead to an accidental outcome?

However, with an estimated 100,000 Russian troops currently deployed near Ukraine’s borders and another 30,000 military exercises underway in Belarus, one cannot help but come back to revising Cline’s Cuba argument. Even if Putin decides not to invade Ukraine, the situation is at breaking point – a bullet accidentally fired across the border during a “drill” could very well lead to a “hot” war.

The difference for Western analysts of the Ukraine crisis right now is that they don’t have the luxury of declassified Russian sources within the Kremlin to assess the nature of Putin’s intentions. While the United States and the United Kingdom firmly maintain their policy of not taking direct military action in Ukraine, the circumstances compared to Cuba are certainly different in this regard.

The press suggests that the next few days will show whether the outcome of the crisis will come from diplomacy, as in Cuba in 1962, or from a military attack and subsequent sanctions from the West. The question no one talks about is whether the tenuous nature of the situation will first lead to an accidental outcome. Whatever the outcome, the parallels with the Cold War cannot be ignored.

Image: Official White House photo by David Lienemann

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