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Cold climate

Nobel laureate Mikhail Gorbachev warns against a new Cold War between the United States and Russia.


[Moscow, Russia] Questions from Jel McGill, London: "When you talk about preventing a new Cold War, exactly who do you think it will stand between? The United States and the rest of the world? The West and Islam? The West and Russia? ”

Answer: It is unlikely that we will experience a new cold war like the one from the 1950s to the 1980s, but today's tense situation is reminiscent of a time when the world was heading for nuclear war. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said in Munich that many US actions have reinforced these dangerous tendencies.

Putin's critics, on the other hand, argue that such leadership is necessary because international terrorism can only be fought with the introduction of democracy worldwide. Nevertheless, the proliferation of this American model has already led to conflict, even war. Democracy is not instant coffee, it cannot be delivered worldwide in handy small packages. The introduction of democracy in Iraq, using tanks and rockets, has been disastrously bad. Such hard-handed methods do not fight terrorism; they only serve as provocation.

Just as during the Cold War, there are some coalitions prepared to act without regard to international laws and institutions. For example, NATO seems determined to expand its scope far beyond the old boundaries, in contrast to the stated goal of the 1980s to become a largely political organization.

At the same time, there are countries that are looking for, or trying to invent, external enemies. The danger of terrorism has become a pretext for anti-

Muslim propaganda, and for the stigmatization of "self-righteous" nations and "evil axes."

As a Russian, I am disturbed by the repeated anti-Russian intimidation campaigns, which are used by politicians and the media to weaken my country's reputation. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently placed Russia on a list of unpredictable countries that could become US enemies. If the inclusion of Russia was a talk, it was of a Freudian nature – and revealed that certain attitudes have not changed with the end of the Cold War.

Such campaigns remove the focus from the real challenges of the world, and while terrorism is a major problem, it is not the only one. Can this problem be solved militarily? No. What is needed are new priorities. Just look at immigration: the United States is building a fence against Mexico, Spain has become the gateway to Europe. The UN Security Council should also address this. Political and diplomatic means can succeed. The most recent example is the halting of North Korea's nuclear program, which could also work in Iraq and Iran.

Lately, it has seemed as if Russia and the United States are not only on the brink of a new Cold War, one also senses another arms race. Russian politicians have talked about withdrawing from the agreement that will ban nuclear medium-range missiles. Bush and Putin's statements that the United States and Russia are not enemies were a step in the right direction. The immediate friction has diminished, but much remains to be done.

We must stop developing scenarios for a new Cold War, and instead make a sincere effort to prevent it. Every nation has something useful to contribute, but I expect, to be honest, that the United States and Russia are leading the way. In that job, they have great potential for improvement.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last president of the Soviet Union (1985-1991), received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and is now president of The Gorbachev Foundation.

He answers questions from readers around the world. Send your question to

© International Herald Tribune. Exclusive right in Norway: New Time.

Translated by Camilla Marie Øberg

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