From the Skripal case to cold war rhetoric

The scandal over the poisoning of former double agent Skripal has sparked a diplomatic crisis between London and Moscow. Russia has responded to the expulsion of 23 of its diplomats by not only sending British diplomats home, but also closing the British consulate general in Saint Petersburg. Is Europe on the verge of a new cold war?

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Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Russia too weak for a cold war

A new cold war would be fatal for Russia, economist Igor Nikolaev writes in his blog with Echo of Moscow:

“Russia is seeking revenge because the USSR lost the Cold War with the West. ... Nevertheless Russia's leadership should be reminded that it wasn't the country or the people that lost this first Cold War but the system with its planned economy, which couldn't bear the strain of burgeoning military spending. ... Some say optimistically that now the economic system is different. That's true, but there has been no structural reform: the economy is inefficient, and what's more it is weakened by sanctions and counter-sanctions. ... Such an economy cannot withstand a new cold war. We will be forced to observe this after the elections, as the problems grow ever larger. The euphoria triggered among many by the elections results will soon evaporate.”

Respekt (CZ) /

Prague should do as London has asked

The EU foreign ministers are backing Britain on the Skripal case. The Czech Republic would do well to take decisive action and expel Russian spies working undercover as diplomats, Respekt advises:

“Last week we were unofficially asked by our British allies to reduce the number of Russian spies working out of the embassy in Prague. ... That would show we are reliable partners and we would also get rid of some secret agents - of which there are far too many in Prague. The more that leave, the better. Russia is becoming increasingly aggressive and the West cannot afford to be divided. Putin will take things as far as we let him.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Talk of war becoming routine in Russia

The poisoning case in Salisbury indicates that the mood in Russia is becoming increasingly belligerent, Neatkarīgā comments anxiously:

“The world has changed in the past four years. It has become more unstable, the insecurity is increasingly evident. ... In public debate Russia is behaving more and more like a hooligan. On TV shows talk about a potential cold war has become as routine as talking about the weather. It has long been no secret that Putin himself and talk show guests speak with joyous anticipation about war. People speculate about the prospect of war with the same enthusiasm as if they were discussing about a long-awaited party.”

Kommersant (RU) /

Everything points to confrontation

Both sides seem determined to fan the conflict, Kommersant observes:

“Judging by Moscow's reaction, over there they don't believe the dispute with London will be resolved any time soon, and - like the British government - they are aiming to escalate the situation instead. Much depends on whether London will manage to draw its allies into the conflict and turn the 'Skripal affair' into a new crisis between Russia and the West. There are indications that this could be the case. ... The Russian leadership has shown with its behaviour that it won't shy away and accepts London's challenge. ... Both sides are being drawn into a new cold war. And they seem to find this exhilarating.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Like a cold war but without rules

Today's situation is worse than a cold war, EU correspondent Stefano Stefanini writes commenting on the situation in La Stampa:

“The West - we Europeans - must find a way to deal with Putin, who begins his fourth mandate in a hostile climate. The Skripal affair was just the tip of the iceberg. ... This is not a cold war, because Russia is still firmly anchored in the network of globalisation. ... This is worse because there are no rules. So all the West can do is assess what counts for Putin. Putin respects power and resolve and wants to sow discord in the Atlantic alliance. Dialogue and negotiations with Moscow, as crucial as they are, must therefore go hand in hand with deterrence and political steadfastness. And above all with European and Atlantic solidarity. The West can't afford the luxury of being divided.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Today's Nato not up to the job

For The Daily Telegraph the situation raises doubts about Nato's current course:

“Our common-interest with other democratic capitalist countries extends well beyond Europe and the North Atlantic, beyond even the conflict with Moscow. We should be closely partnered with South Korea and Japan, which have to deal with a nuclear North Korea; and with Taiwan, which is still fending off the communist mainland. We should also be working more enthusiastically with Israel, that outpost of stable democracy in the Middle East. It’s odd that we remain in a Nato alliance with Turkey, which has become an authoritarian regime on the model of Russia.”