Clinton: Russia is threatening a new cold war

On the war path: Clinton claimed that Russia presents a clear “danger to western democracy”.

Is this a sensible thing to say? Hillary Clinton has just given an interview accusing President Putin of aggressive war-mongering. She said that the USA and Europe face a “global struggle.”

Today as people go about their daily lives — travelling to work and school, and logging on to social media — they could be under attack.

Russia is waging “information warfare” against America and Europe, Hillary Clinton declared on Sunday. She was speaking at a major international literature festival.

She said that Russia has “weaponised” social media, and referred to the Kremlin’s attempts to “hack” the US election with pro-Trump Facebook adverts. Clinton also described how Russian agents “fan the flames of division” in American society, by infiltrating social networks and writing extremist posts about LGBT issues, guns, and Muslims.

It is not just the USA at risk. Clinton accused Putin of wanting to “disrupt and destabilise Europe”, describing cyber attacks on German politicians and the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

The world was very different when the cold war began in 1946. Europe was in ruins. And the Soviet Union threatened to take communism global. America was desperate to prevent this and formed NATO with 11 western countries in 1949.

A frantic arms race followed. Russia and America built thousands of tanks, warplanes, and nuclear weapons. In 1962 this firepower was nearly unleashed — the world narrowly avoiding nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis.

The “new cold war” that Clinton foresees is very different. As she states, it is not about armies, territory, or missiles; it will be fought in cyberspace.

People often try to make sense of the world by declaring that events are a repeat of the past. Ahead of Catalonia’s recent independence referendum, journalist James Badcock claimed that Spain could descend into “another civil war”. This has not happened.

And last week Senator Ted Cruz warned that the Republicans will suffer a “Watergate-style blowout” under Donald Trump. His comments are the latest is a long tradition of comparing controversies to the Watergate scandal.

But is it sensible to declare a “new cold war”?

Cold war: the sequel

“The world has changed,” some argue. Cyber attacks are increasing. NATO troops patrol ever closer to the Russian border. And America and Russia fight proxy battles in Syria. We are heading for something very different to the cold war. Clinton’s comments reduce history to repetitive cycles, stopping us from preparing for the new challenges we face.

“Clinton has a point,” others reply. The parallels are sound. As Putin becomes more aggressive, it will fall to the USA to stop him. What is more, Clinton has got our attention. The cold war could have destroyed humanity as we know it. By claiming it is happening again, she wakes us up to the seriousness of the geopolitical games our leaders are playing.

You Decide

  1. Do you think that we are entering a new cold war?
  2. Is history more like a straight line or a cycle?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you have a meeting with President Putin and you can ask him one question. What question would you ask and why?
  2. Do some research on the cold war. Which events are the most important? Choose what you think are the five most important events and draw a timeline.

Some People Say...

“History never progresses, but only repeats itself.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Research from Columbia University shows that Russian adverts on Facebook were seen by 10m people in crucial and decisive swing states; they had been shared up to 340m times. In September, Russia held mass military exercises known as “Zapad” near the borders of Eastern Europe. Zapad drills take place every four years, with the 2013 drill culminating with a mock nuclear strike against Sweden.
What do we not know?
We do not know if Russian interference in the election was responsible for producing the result in favour of Donald Trump. Nor are we certain that the Russian state specifically ordered the interference. Putin said that “patriotic hackers” may have targeted the election, but denied that the state was involved.

Word Watch

Kremlin
Historic fortress in Moscow, the president’s official residence and the name for the executive branch of the Russian government.
Communism
A theory of social organisation in which the community owns all property. Food and goods are distributed by the state according to need.
NATO
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The central principle is that all member states are required to assist if one member is attacked. There are now 29 member countries. The Warsaw Pact, the Soviet equivalent alliance, was dissolved in 1991.
Cuban missile crisis
Intense confrontation between America and Russia, after the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, sited missiles on Cuba. The US president, John F. Kennedy, ordered a blockade of Cuba and insisted that the Russian missiles be removed.
Watergate scandal
In 1972 agents of Nixon’s re-election campaign broke into Democratic Party offices. It led to the resignation of Nixon as president.
Proxy battles
Russia is one of the closest allies of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. The USA supports the main opposition alliance, the National Coalition.

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