Return to Cold War

Since the onset of the Ukrainian crisis, experts have debated how to characterize the latest phase of U.S.-Russian relations, now at their lowest ebb since before the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. In his timely new book, Legvold argues convincingly that Washington and Moscow have entered a second Cold War, which could become even more dangerous than the first one, owing to an unstable global environment and new challenges such as cyberwarfare and terrorism. He suggests that instead of ostracizing the Russians, the Americans should acknowledge their own role in the deterioration of relations and should take steps to reengage with the Kremlin. He offers a number of concrete suggestions for how the two countries could find ways to cooperate on matters including Euro-Atlantic security arrangements and defusing tensions in Northeast Asia. The conflict over Ukraine will remain a sore spot, he acknowledges, but it could be resolved if other aspects of the relationship improved. Legvold’s call for U.S. reengagement raises serious questions about Russia’s willingness to respond, and on what terms. Confrontation with the West has become a fundamental tool for legitimizing the Kremlin’s rule. It’s not clear under what circumstances that could change.

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