Growing tensions between Russia and the West put Cold War on the horizon

Video transcript.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last General Secretary of the Soviet Union, recently warned of a new ‘Cold War’. Is this a realistic understanding of the Ukraine crisis?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Yes, well Mr Gorbachev was in Berlin recently to take part in the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, which he was instrumental in bringing about, and which rightly earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Today, he is not quite on top of things. He suggests that the Americans and Russians need to sit down and talk about things, and this is clearly not going to happen, and is not for some years yet to come.

And he suggests that we’re entering a new Cold War, which is over-dramatising things, we’re not quite there yet. It is serious, but it is definitely not the 1980s again.

Russia could face new sanctions if the Ukraine crisis remains unresolved. If this aggravates the situation, could this lead to a new Cold War?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

This is where it gets very worrisome. The situation in Ukraine at the moment is unclear and is in some kind of a limbo because nobody really knows what the Russian agenda is, or how far they want to push things.

If it does escalate, or the Russians show absolutely no desire to help resolving matters, then the Europeans in particular will feel that they have to come together to increase the sanctions. And if the sanctions are increased from a level where they are already hurting Russia then the pain will become very great. And that will cause the Russians to retaliate.

And in that type of scenario we are approaching something that could become a new Cold War, and that obviously is very troublesome.

How will the outcome of the 2016 US presidential elections impact on America’s relationship with Russia?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

I think this will be the watershed. I feel that whether its a Democrat or a Republican who wins the White House the next time round, the United States will be ready to take on Russia to a larger extent than it is now.

If Washington decides, as Ronald Regan did when he put an end to the Cold War with Gorbachev, that you first have to show real strength, then we can start talking. If the White House does decide to confront Russia and not to keep back-peddling, then we may actually end up with Cold War containment and counter-strikes where nuclear weapons are involved in the background.

So, a couple of years down the line this could get very, very ugly.

(photo credit: dpa)