Global News Journal

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Russia’s Cold War anger over U.S. shield: misjudged?

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Signing of missile defence treaty

Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.

That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”

We are, of course, a long way from the tensions of the Cold War. But the dispute is reminiscent of the war of words between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1980s over another missile defence system — the Strategic Defence Initiative proposed by Ronald Reagan. His dream of a partly space-based missile system, otherwise known as Star Wars after George Lucas’ 1977 film, never became a reality but the row over it plagued Soviet-U.S. relations for years.

Star Wars actors

The disagreement over the missile defence system that George W. Bush now wants to be partly based in Europe risks having a similar impact on U.S.-Russian relations. Perhaps fittingly, it has been referred to as Son of Star Wars.

Face to face with Medvedev

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Medvedev gestures during interview What makes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tick? How independent is he of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin?
Medvedev gave Reuters a chance to find out more about his plans, and get some clues about the questions being asked by Russia watchers, analysts and diplomats, by granting us an interview in the Kremlin.
During a 90-minute question-and-answer session he played down differences with Putin, his long-time ally who is now prime minister, and portrayed himself as a continuity figure but the contrast in style and tone between the two men was striking.
Medvedev made none of the harsh attacks on the West that became Putin’s trademark and used considered, lawyerly phrases that sounded quite unlike Putin’s more direct and earthy language.
Medvedev said Russia’s foreign policy would not be swayed by criticism from abroad, but added that complaints about its policy were normal. He avoided echoing Putin by making charges of Western hypocrisy and double standards.
But he did sound more like Putin when discussing Russia’s media, saying television channels, newspapers and websites were “absolutely free” and dismissing any possibility of special controls on the media in Russia.
Some analysts think Medvedev is a deliberately more liberal choice than Putin who can usher in an era of greater freedom, private property and foreign investment. Others view him with suspicion as little more than a Putin puppet.

 What do you think?

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