Is the west on the verge of a new cold war with Russia, as the Economist correspondent Edward Lucas suggests in his new book of the same title? Hardly, says Stephen Kotkin, a Russia specialist at Princeton University, writing in the new issue of Prospect.
Kotkin suggests we all calm down a little. Just as the chaos and impoverishment under Yeltsin’s rule in the 1990s hardly amounted to a liberal democracy, despite the wishful thinking of western analysts, the authoritarian tendencies at home and muscle-flexing abroad that characterised Putin’s reign do not make contemporary Russia an international menace that demands confrontation.
Kotkin also detects in new fears about Russia’s totalitarian turn traces of America’s long-established religiously inspired concern about the west “losing” Russia. For Americans, he writes, Russia has for over 100 years been seen as, in some way, America’s “dark double,” a colossal Eurasian riposte to the civilised, democratic values of the west.