Friday, August 6, 2021

Those Prosecuting New Cold War Need Negotiations Just as Those who Led First One Did, Golts Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – Moscow military analyst Aleksandr Golts, one of the first to use the expression “new cold war” to describe current relations between Moscow and Washington, says that the two sides prosecuting that conflict now need to engage in negotiations just as those who led the first one did as a confidence-building measure to avoid disaster.

            In a new book, Surviving the Cold War. The Experience of Diplomacy (in Russian, Moscow: AST, 2021), he says that the situation the two sides find themselves in is very much like that they were in at the end of the 1960s (

            That is, they were in a situation where contradictions between them could not be overcome “by diplomatic or military means” because of the capacities of each. Something similar exists now, although there are far fewer nuclear weapons and Russia is in a much weaker position than was the Soviet Union, Golts continues.

            The only thing that Russia has that gives it the status of a major power is its nuclear arsenal and that is why “the Kremlin so often reminds everyone that it has nuclear arms and is ready to employ them.” But at the same time, it doesn’t want to commit suicide and “the Putin regime may not like it but it is no worse than the totalitarian Soviet regime.”

            It thus has an interest as did its Soviet predecessors in negotiations about nuclear arms both to demonstrate that the West views it with respect and also to develop a cadre of experts on both sides who can over time learn to work with each other. The US has an interest in such a development as well because that is how progress was made a half century ago.

            “We live in conditions when the danger of a new war are increasing, when no open diplomacy can be conducted,” and thus we must go back to something like the beginning of east-west talks on arms control in 1969 when the two sides were engaged in serious competition in other spheres but began the slow and laborious process of building confidence on this issue.

            At present, Golts argues, “negotiations need to be conducted for the sake of negotiations” and so that contacts can develop between the two sides that go beyond what the current leaders may think they want. That is how progress was made during the first cold war, and it can be a model for talks in the second.

            There are certainly experts and diplomats on both sides who could come to play that role eventually, although at present, at the start of talks, they do not have the possibility of showing that side of their capabilities. That is what protracted and quiet talks allow, for the kind of contacts that allow such relationships to emerge.

            The real problem now is that leaders want more rapid progress than is possible. “No one in fact knows” how long the second cold war will last, but it isn’t something that is going to be over quickly because the contradictions between the two sides are simply too deep, the Moscow analyst says.

            Above all, he says, the course of the new cold war will depend on developments in Russia. Talks will give the Kremlin “a certain time out and chance to put itself in order, to understand what it wants and what the Russian people want. When that occurs, when Russia achieves that,  then ‘the new cold war’ will end.”

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