The biggest threat in US-Russia relations

Ivo H. Daalder, writing in Foreign Affairs, on the difference between the last period of US-Russia combativeness and competitiveness and this one. 

Speaking almost a decade after Putin lambasted nato and the United States at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev returned to the same podium last year to lament that “we have slid back into a new Cold War.” But the current confrontation is very different from the actual Cold War, an ideological clash that extended to every part of the world. Huge armies were deployed on either side of the Iron Curtain, many thousands of nuclear weapons were ready to launch at a moment’s notice, and proxy wars were fought as far away as Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Today’s confrontation lacks the intensity, scale, and ideological divisiveness of that earlier, deadlier conflict.

Moreover, the biggest threat today is not a deliberate war, as it was then, but the possibility of miscalculation. One worry is that Russia might not believe that nato would actually come to the defense of its most exposed allies-which is why strong statements of reassurance and commitment by all nato countries, and not least the United States, are so vital.