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Ordinary Russians Will Suffer in Putin's New Cold War

Published: July 21, 2014 (Issue # 1820)




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More than a century ago the writer Anton Chekhov said, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following act it should be fired." Events in eastern Ukraine seem to be following this script advice.

As sophisticated, powerful and allegedly Russian weaponry gradually accumulated in the hands of various terrorist groups, it was clear that sooner or later it would lead to disaster. The downing of Flight MH17, shot down by a missile fired from a BUK — SA-11 Gadfly, by NATO classification — became that disaster. It was purely accidental that the victims were almost 300 foreign passengers.

The shot from the BUK was the last nail in the coffin of the reassuring theory that a repeat of the Cold War was impossible. As it turns out, it is possible. In fact, its circumstances can be repeated exactly, right down to the shooting down of a civilian passenger liner, just like the way KAL-007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet in 1983.

It appears that a full-blown Cold War II is under way. Just like 40 years ago, there are proxy wars taking away dozens and hundreds of lives every day — like in Syria, where the main players are no longer the government and rebels, but foreign governments including Russia, which is providing arms and other support to Syrian President Bashir Assad. Russian diplomats have gotten used to interacting with their Western colleagues with aggressive rhetoric, as if they had taken their cue from Nikita Khrushchev, pounding his shoe on the desk at the United Nations.

The open and honest exchange of information between Russia and the West has almost entirely moved to the Internet. "Western public opinion" is represented on Russian television by marginal figures, from the 9/11 Truthers to leaders of European neo-Nazi parties, interspersed with professional Putin lovers from among the community of Western political experts.

For several years, Russia has been carrying out a quiet war against Western charities and non-government organizations, gradually drumming them out of the country. Meanwhile, over the last few months Western economic sanctions against Russia have been slowly but effectively ramped up.

And despite official denials, economists say that these sanctions can really hurt the Russian economy.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphoto’s exhibition “On Both Sides,” chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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