The New Cold War?

One of the more curious parts of the American presidential campaign is the furious side battle over how to deal with the Russians. Many Republicans have adopted the neo-conservative line that Putin is some combination of Stalin, Hitler and that third grade bully who put gum in their hair. They are incapable of seeing Putin as anything but an inhuman evil. This says more about the Republican-aligned publications and think tanks, which have come to be dominated by the neo-cons, than anything else.

Trump has taken a less provocative stance than most Republicans so that has all the professional loonies out howling in the streets. Part of this is simply due to the anti-Trump virus that has infected Official Conservatism™, but it also reveals something about the political class. While neo-cons have always had greater influence over the Republicans, they currently dominate the foreign policy establishment. It was under Obama, after all, that Victoria Nuland helped throw the Ukraine into turmoil.

The puzzle is why the neo-cons have an obsession with the Russians. The Cold War has been over for a long time and the Russians are not much of a threat to anyone. They have a lot of nukes, but what reason would they have to nuke anyone? The Russian ruling class is living like Saudi Royals, mostly from selling natural resources to the Europeans. They control roughly 40% of the natural gas supply to Europe and that accounts for 68% of Russian exports. That means the Russians are in no hurry to stop selling gas to the rest of Europe.

Part of it is good old fashioned professional inertia. People like Frederick Kagan, Donald Kagan and Robert Kagan (husband of Victoria Nuland) have organized their lives around opposition to the Russians. They’re not alone. The whole neo-conservative project, as a political movement, was mostly about opposition to the Soviets. Most of the men who lead the neo-conservative cause these days are old men who started out in life as Cold War hawks. When the Soviets collapsed, they did not find a new career. They simply found new reasons to demonize the Russians.

There’s also an undeniable tribal flavor to it. Almost all neocons are Jews and specifically Russian Jews. There has always been a strong anti-Russian strain within American Jewry that dates back to to when Russian Jews started migrating to America. It’s not entirely irrational, given the way Jews were treated by the Czars. But, there has always been a divide within American Jewry. One one side are German Jews who emigrated in the 19th century and largely blended into the ruling class. On the other side are the Russian Jews who were treated like poorer relations.

While all of this is interesting background, it is no reason to restart the Cold War and there are some dissenters who think the neo-cons are nuts. Some on the Right point to the fact the neo-cons were outlandishly wrong about the Muslims and should not be trusted with Russia policy. Then there are critics from the Left who also think the neo-cons are nuts, but they mostly think we’re better off doing business with the Russians. Stephen Cohen is the most prominent voice on the Left warning that a new Cold War with Russia is a terrible idea.

There’s another element that explains the neo-con obsession with Putin. Irving Kristol’s brand of conservatism was intended to be forward looking and anti-traditionalist. It’s not an accident that the neo-cons are forever chirping about happy warriors and optimistic conservatism. They see traditionalism as pessimistic and limiting. Whatever else you want to say about Putin, he is very much in the tradition of European conservatism, which is traditionalist and limiting. The state is to defend citizens from one another, not guide them to the glorious future where they can reach their full potential.

Then there’s globalism, which has become something of a religion for western ruling elites. Irving Kristol’s brand of politics has easily folded into the globalist fantasies of American policy makers, because it gives the naked money grab the veneer of humanitarianism. The trillion dollar boondoggle that was the Iraq War was tarted up as an effort to install democracy and liberalism in the Muslim world. It’s a lot easier to loot your country’s middle-class when you are convinced it is to make the world a better place.

Even if the neo-cons continue to dominate the debate, it takes two to tango and there’s plenty of reasons to think the Russians are not all that interested in a new Cold War. Russian per capita GDP is $13,000. The poorest state in America is at $35,000, while the poorest state in the EU is Bulgaria at $18,000. Russia is not Albania, but it is a very poor country relative to the West. It’s also a country with horrible demographics and wide spread drug and alcohol problems. They also have a Muslim problem that gets little attention. In other words, the Russians are in no condition for a Cold War.

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Member

Meh, conflict, up to and including war, is entertainment, for some.

I hope they get mortared, howitzered and nuked first.

Spell check tells me “howitzered” is not a word, but I think it is.

LetsPlay
Member
Respectfully have to disagree with you on your assessment of puto Putin when you say “Whatever else you want to say about Putin, he is very much in the tradition of European conservatism, which is traditionalist and limiting.” Your read of Russia’s economic and social situation is accurate, however, Putin’s ego, and his drive to reestablish the Russian empire and heartland, honor and pride, is much more in the forefront of anything else. And a cowardly and timid President and greatly reduced American military gives him the leeway to be the big man on the world playground. This is the… Read more »
Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
The American attitude towards Russia, Putin in particular, is a question most of us on this side of the pond can’t understand. Your relationship with Communist China has been devastating as the import imbalance has clearly destroyed jobs and much of the American economy from cheap products at Wal-Mart to the import of Chinese steel used to expand the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Not to mention the Chinese have been responsible for the loss of American lives directly through the wars in both Korea to Viet Nam which were backed by the Chinese. And still Russia remains the “bad… Read more »
Member

Finally something I can agree with you about.

Karl Hungus
Guest

It started off as the US balancing China off against Russia, in the late 60’s early 70’s. Then the corrosive effect of money produced what we have tody.

Tom Saunders
Guest

I agree that the U.S. should let Europeans enjoy what they obviously long for; however, no need to use Bolshevik propaganda from the 1950’s to justify it. (Wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve read “only America uses nukes” and ” innocent, benign Russia is being threatened” over the last 50 years.) The record of Russia’s imperial drive and rapaciousness is long, and only broken when stopped by resolute force.
The video that the following link leads to indicates that your more likely to find or plant “Minuteman Liberty” in Mesopotamia than continental Europe.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=a94_1470786200

Tom Saunders
Guest
LetsPlay
Member
“However Russia, unlike China, does not pose a threat to Europe or the west. No nation on earth, other than the US, has used a nuclear weapon on another nation.” Wow, that is a mouth full. I think you forget that at the end of WWII, Germans very much wanted to surrender to the US Forces before the Russians arrived. And “our” nukes were a stabilizing force against the Bear who quickly obtained the same weapons as they pursued the Cold War around the world, including the attempted placement in Cuba. You said somewhere that Germany owes a lot to… Read more »
Worldlywiseman
Guest

Who wants to stop Putin? It looks to me he has much more countries wanting to do business with him. Starting with the anti NGO holly alliance (vlad, sultan, bibi) and ending with the English brexiteers in charge of the foreign policy in London. Italians, French and East Germany never wanted the conflict anyway. US might find itself alone inside NATO very soon

LetsPlay
Member

As with the UN, “We don’t need no stinking NATO!” A complete waste of taxpayer money.

Worldlywiseman
Guest

Off topic, but it looks like Peggy Noonan is reading this blog. http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-global-elites-forsake-their-countrymen-1470959258

Joan of Argghh!
Guest

She must be. She hasn’t the cultural acuity to even imagine what is important. Her fawning over Obama was the only “tell” I’ll ever need to never trust her as anything more than a very capable word-crafter for the elite, who imagines that fine quality also makes her a thinker.

Notsothoreau
Guest

You’re wrong. I’ve seen her on too many political shows. She is the only one that seems to understand Trumps appeal. She seems to talk to people outside her social class. I don’t like her or trust her, but I have watched her try to explain Trump to her clueless co-panelists too many times.

Lulu
Guest

I have watched her for years – used to be addicted to the Friday evening political roundtables on PBS.

Peggy has become more and more Blanche DuBois as time passes. Too many adult beverages, some say. Once in a while she gets something right. One never knows whether it is accidental or by design. She was too much in the Obama rooting section to suit me.

Lulu
Guest

WSJ article is behind its paywall.

Worldlywiseman
Guest

Peggy is saying in the article that her friend is a friend of Merkel and that by inviting migrants into Germany she hoped to wash away the stain on nazi history. Then she mentioned her religious upbringing, hard life in eastern Germany (we were refugees once so we must invite them all in). And for a grand finale she wrote about insular life she and her social circle are leading somewhere in Manhattan. My money is not on her genius analysis but on a copy-paste function Saint Gates gave us

Drake
Guest

Sure – I spent a good chunk of my 20’s training to kill Russians and other flavors of commie. That will leave a bias.

Then came a time when we thought the Russians were over all that and would be nice freedom-loving capitalists.

Then they put a KGB strong-man in charge who has visions of Peter the Great and starts invading his neighbors, annexing their territory and generally acting like an asshole. Takes two to confirm a bias. Maybe it’s a phase we’ll get through it peacefully.

Worldlywiseman
Guest

Your thoughtful analysis somehow missed guarantees given to Russia that NATO would not expand into ex ussr nations. Or the putch by eu/us in Ukraine.

Drake
Guest

Citation?

The UK, U.S., and Russian Federation also guaranteed the sovereignty and the existing borders of the Ukraine when they gave up their nukes in 1991. How did that work out?

Worldlywiseman
Guest

Ukraine guarantee was broken by us and eu when they organized a putch against pro putin government in kiev. There are several excellent books covering the topic, the best is by Richard Sakwa, Frontline Ukraine. Gives the thorough background of the issue. Also Peter Hitchens on his blog wrote extensively about the topic. As for the guarantee of non expansion :http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-shifrinson-russia-us-nato-deal–20160530-snap-story.html

LetsPlay
Member

Correct spelling I found is “putsch.” FYI.

Uncola
Guest
Prior to any trip down the Rabbit Hole, one must first follow the Money Trail. The conflicts in both Ukraine and Syria have to do with energy. Energy x Money = National Security. Post the Globalist shenanigans in the Fall and Winter of 2013, then the Ukrainian coup in February, 2014 (under cover of the winter Olympics no less): Russia decided it would be a good idea to annex Crimea in March, 2014. Then, they signed a $400 billion “Holy Grail” gas deal with China in May and this gave the Petrodollar nice kick in the nuts. In June of… Read more »
Anon
Guest

“”The Russians are no condition for a Cold War”

So why not gin up a hot one to unify the country. My money is on Estonia.

Brendan
Guest
I listen to Steven Cohen every Tuesday on the John Batchelor Show (you can podcast him and he is pretty awesome). Cohen, despite his Russian apologism (the Olympic vials were tampered with to keep the Russians out!!!!) has some pretty good points, and frankly, I have to agree. Its idiocy to view the Russians as our enemy – maybe competitor in certain realms, but that doesn’t mean we have to start a cold war over it, because we have just as many realms where our interests align. After all, why were the Russians our enemy? They wanted to spread Soviet… Read more »
Severian
Guest
Don’t make too much of this, but I think part of the Cloud People’s beef with Putin — please don’t laugh; I’m being serious — is that he’s unabashedly male. He seems to relish pointing out what a pantywaist Obama is, and since Obama is the Chattering Class’s #1 aspirational figure…. [I could barely type that, my stomach was heaving so much, but search your feelings, you know it to be true. Obama is how they’d like to see themselves — he’s never had an original thought in his head; his one skill is reading from a teleprompter; he’s post-racial,… Read more »
Member

Yes, and Trump is the American Putin. The very existence of these two guys is a nightmare to the Cloud People. Putin they can do nothing about. They are so afraid of him, the only thing they can think of to do is, like frightened children, hope he goes away. Trump they can bash relentlessly until he’s beaten, their usual m.o.

Member
I’m slowly working my way through a book titled Nationalism the Last Stage of Communism, written in 1969 by Emil Lengyel. Seems the Russians were very nationalistic under the Czars and became internationalist under Communism. This book so far is discussing this change and will go on, as far as I can tell, to describe how the tide against Communism in the Warsaw Pact countries began with movements that the author considered to be nationalist. In the Introduction he discusses the possibility that this could happen in the USSR. I’m wondering if our neocon movement was not a reaction to… Read more »
Severian
Guest
Neocons have written a zillion books about Russia, but what they don’t know could fill a zillion more. Remember how “Sovietologist” used to be a thing? And they could never even figure out who was the coming man in the Kremlin, let alone what would happen when he got there? It’s the same reason truly great historians are so rare — it’s tough to get into an alien mindset… particularly when you envy the strongman’s “efficiency” and are fairly obviously a craven power-worshipper yourself. Their track record would’ve been better had they hired some top-notch theologians to get to work… Read more »
Brooklyn
Guest
The cold war shaped and gave purpose to a lot of intellectuals who are still around and seem to yearn for what we had then. But to start something like it now is crazy; neither side is in any shape for it – the Russian materially and us intellectually – plus it feels more and more like declining boomers trying to relive yet another part of their youth. Sort of like “I was a dirty hippy and it was dad and that clown Reagan who won things! Not fair! I want a do-over! I’ll show them how to do things… Read more »
Wayne Parker
Guest

Nailed it!!

Al from da Nort
Guest
Z Man. Embrace the power of AND. As in, ‘Many of Putin’s main US enemies are despicable AND he is a traditional Russian leader none too respectful of international norms of behavior (whatever that means these days)’. Traditional Russian policy since before the days of Ivan the Terrible has been expansionist, whenever convenient and possible. How did the ‘Prince of Moscow’ eventually became the ‘Czar of all Russias’_? Military force; Always labeled as a counterattack. Same as now in Ukraine. Whether Putin’s reversion to the historic norm calls for another Cold War is a prudential question and may well be… Read more »
San J.
Guest
“…It’s not entirely irrational, given the way Jews were treated by the Czars…” And the Czars behavior was not irrational either. If you look at the history of countries where Jews were given free reign they all eventually become a disaster. The USA a prime examples. The Czar balanced his people’s needs with a hostile subset of the population. Notice the long standing hate the Jews have for anyone who gets in their way and what they do with power when they have it. As for Putin he’s actually doing the same. He stopped the Jews from raping the country… Read more »
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