WASHINGTON – The language of the Cold War has returned with a vengeance, with renewed talk of nuclear alerts, alleged testing of medium-range nuclear missiles and worries about NATO’s defense umbrella.
President Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea just over a year ago has now broadened into what some U.S. officials see as a wider Russian challenge to the post-Cold War order. Reading recent news reports, it’s almost as if U.S.-Russia relations have fallen through a black hole back toward the deadly confrontations of the 1980s.
The debate about Russian aggression isn’t just about Ukraine. Putin’s activities are rekindling core concerns that created the NATO alliance. Unfortunately, this time around, there appears to be less trans-Atlantic resolve to combat Russian threats.
The Obama administration is debating how to augment its Russia policy, but there are clear internal disagreements. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, appear to favor sending lethal arms to Ukraine. But President Obama seems caught between a desire to contain Russian actions and his continuing hope for Moscow’s cooperation, both in the Iran nuclear talks and in settling the Syrian civil war.