As chasm grows between a resurgent Russia and a divided US and Europe, diplomats say conflict is now more dangerous, with no clear rules of the road
Gen Sir Richard Shirreff remembers the moment he realised Nato was facing a new and more dangerous Russia. It was 19 March 2014, the day after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
Shirreff, then deputy supreme allied commander Europe, was at Natos military HQ in Mons, Belgium, when an American two-star general came in with the transcript of Putins speech justifying the annexation. He briefed us and said: I think this just might be a paradigm-shifting speech, and I think he might have been right, Shirreff recalled.
The Russian chairmen address aired a long listing of grievances, with the wests attempts to contain Russia in the 18 th to 20 th centuries right at the top.
Putin said: They have lied to us many times, stimulated decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happened with Natos expansion to the east, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders.
He warned that Russia would no longer tolerate such pressure: If you press the spring it will release at some phase. That is something you should remember.
Warnings of a return to cold war politics have been a staple of European debate for three years, but in recent weeks many western diplomats, politicians and analysts have come to believe the springtime has indeed been released. Russia is being reassessed across western capitals. The talk is no longer of transition to a liberal republic, but regression.
The post-cold war era is over, and a new epoch has begun. Cold war 2.0, different in character, but potentially as menacing and founded not only on competing interests but competing values.
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