ISBN: 978-1-5095-0189-2

Pavel K Baev


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The confrontation between Russia and the West triggered by the annexation of Crimea in March 2014 is often called a New Cold War for dramatic effect or for lack of a better term. Legvold examines this description meticulously. He argues that essentially the on-going collapse of relations is sufficiently similar to the Cold War from the late 1940s to the late 1980s that the recycling of the old term is well justified. It is certainly not for the sake of definition that this veteran Russia-watcher embarked on the mission of re-examining the lessons of the already distant past in this concise volume; his goal is to convince the policy-makers in both camps that the risks should be managed better, so that the confrontation becomes ‘as short and shallow as possible’ (p. 64). He insists that Washington and Moscow (assuming that European opinions are of little import) must ‘begin working their way out of the new Cold War’ (p. 155), by accepting the impasse of the Ukraine crisis and moving on from there. Washington, in Legvold’s opinion, is better positioned to make the first step toward a new détente, but that requires a re-evaluation of the premise that Moscow’s aggressive policy is driven by the nature of Putin’s regime. Reflections on Mikhail Gorbachev’s bold exit from the entrenched confrontation inform Legvold’s conviction that Russia should be ‘drawn into constructive interaction’ (p. 139) and personal sanctions against the Kremlin crooks only stand in the way. Putin, however, has drawn very different lessons from the end of the long Cold War, which led to the collapse of the USSR, and knows that confrontation is the only organic environment for his rule.