John Schindler has an indispensable piece on the new Cold War (The West Must Prevent Cold War 2.0). It is surprising in a couple of different ways. First, Schindler examines the political situation today through the lens of the Marshall Plan era but with some keen insight as to the differences today. And, if you’re familiar with Schindler’s Twitter feed and writing, he arrives at a surprising conclusion.
It was a year of profound, indeed systemic crisis. Across the West, friends of the Kremlin were surging in democratic elections, playing on legitimate fears of voters about economic anxiety and societal erosion. Moscow’s agents infiltrated Western politics at all levels, corrupting media and public discourse, while several European countries were poised to fall to parties overtly under Kremlin control—via the ballot box, not a coup. For Westerners who treasured freedom, it was all a nightmare coming true.
The year was 1947.
He goes on to note how many of the right-wing parties growing in power in Europe are openly praising Russia and accepting Russian cash. In some cases, Russia seems to be seeding an insurrection. Last fall, Serbian citizens with links to Moscow’s intelligence services tried to stage a coup on Montenegro and were implicated in a plot to assassinate the Serbian prime minister.
Here is where Putin stands ready to win big, conquering without all-out war. The coming French presidential election offers two likely choices: Marine LePen and her nationalist National Front, which openly takes money from Moscow, or François Fillon, a center-right politician who wants close ties with the Kremlin too. Both view Putin as an ally against the globalists and the EU, so no matter who takes France’s 2017 election, Moscow wins. Since France is an important middle-weight power possessing nuclear weapons, this will be a big win for Russia.
Things don’t look much better in Germany, where beleaguered Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a country furious at her opening the floodgates in 2015 to millions of migrants, mainly Muslim and unskilled, who have little to contribute to Germany’s very modern economy. This has engendered political chaos, and although Germany’s political system is designed to stifle far-right parties, thanks to the lessons learned from the Third Reich, nationalists are back in German politics in a serious way for the first time since the Hitler era.
Merkel’s nemesis is the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is rising fast at the local level and shows signs of finally getting traction in 2017 national elections, thanks to the anger at Merkel and her center-right coalition which has exposed the country to domestic terrorism in a serious way. The AfD makes little effort to hide its Kremlin ties, while Russian flags have a curious way of showing up at their demonstrations. Any progress by the AfD in the new year will be warmly greeted in Moscow, with good reason.
The problem in Europe, and in the US, is that a basic social contract has been ruptured:
None of this is welcome news, and Western elites need to accept their share of the blame for this sad situation. By stifling legitimate feelings of anger and frustration at the neoliberal globalist order with accusations of racism and xenophobia, they have given Putin and his intelligence services a golden opportunity to exploit Westerners who feel ignored, despised, and disenfranchised. Kremlin spies in recent years have disseminated large amounts of cash to Western political parties they consider useful, on both the left and right, while passing weapons to the truly radical fringe. Putin wants a West that’s politically divided and increasingly unstable, and he’s getting what he wants.
At this point I think I begin to depart from the article. Schindler believes that a massive infusion of cash and the dissemination of intelligence about Russia’s meddling in domestic politics in Europe can turn the tide. I have my doubts. No one fears Russia in the way they feared the USSR. Russia is a regional power with a Third World economy and a rapidly declining birth rate. Within 30 years ethnic Chinese will be a majority in Siberia. If Marine LePen wins in France all Putin has accomplished is installing what looks like another DeGaulle, but one that is unlikely to invite Algerians into France. There is scant evidence that indicates her loyalty to Moscow is anything more than transactional. And the use of cash and intelligence is not likely to be persuasive because the people who will have to agree to do that are the same people who are being rejected. I’m pretty much in agreement with this:
From there, Schindler goes to a decision that is more than a little surprising given his history of criticism of Trump and of Trump’s infatuation with Putin and Russia.
For more than three years, President Obama steadfastly refused to admit that we’re in Cold War 2.0 with Russia, which Putin de facto declared with his annexation of Crimea and subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine. However, Obama’s belated entry into the SpyWar with Moscow this week makes unmistakably clear that a new Cold War is in fact underway.
It shows no sign of stopping either, despite President-elect Trump’s fawning over the Kremlin on social media. Once in office, he will learn all the ways that Moscow clandestinely works to harm the West, and it is to be hoped that Trump takes appropriate action. Himself a figure of the anti-globalist right, Donald Trump may be just the man to turn to the political tables on the Kremlin. The entire West should hope he does, soon.
I don’t disagree with this. When you look at Trump’s relationships, whether wife, mistress, or business associate, those relationships are purely transactional. So long as Trump is getting something from the arrangement he stays with it. The moment the relationship stops being profitable he’s gone. Loyalty does not figure into the equation. I can’t see Trump going along with Putin as Putin punks him and makes him look weak. Once that break is made, Putin is going to face a fearsome adversary. Putin, no fool, probably knows that his romance with Trump is temporary (remember the romance between Ted Cruz and Trump and how that played out) and Trump could be the one Western leader that convinces Putin to pull his intelligence services back.
If not, we have Cold War 2.0. On steroids.