In one of the lower moments from the 2012 presidential campaign, Barack Obama razzed Mitt Romney for describing Russia as a prime American strategic enemy. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” Obama sneered.
Apparently, the 1980s have Russia on speed-dial because they just called and gave Moscow its nuclear paranoia back.
Bloomberg News reports that “Russian state television is back on a war footing,” as tensions over the collapse of the Syrian ceasefire mount.
The sudden escalation puts the relationship back into the deep freeze it was in at the peak of the crisis over Ukraine in 2014, which also sparked a wave of hostility in state media. That anti-U.S. campaign ended as the Kremlin sought to ease Western punitive measures imposed over the Ukrainian crisis — hopes that now seem to be in tatters.
“Offensive behavior toward Russia has a nuclear dimension,” Russian state TV presenter Dmitry Kiselyov said in his “Vesti Nedelyi” program on Sunday. “Moscow would react with nerves of iron to a Plan B,” he said, referring to any possible U.S. military strike in Syria.
The Kremlin’s control over Russian media has in part helped keep President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating above 80 percent during the country’s longest recession in two decades and portrayed military deployments in Crimea and Syria as victories against western encroachment.
Over on the American side of this geopolitical divide, Cliff Kupchan of the Eurasia Group warned about the “ossification of U.S.-Russian relations at an abysmally low level,” as “deep mistrust of Putin will now be structural and unanimous among U.S. policy makers.”
For his part, Putin canceled a trip to France because President Hollande refused to appear with him at the inauguration of a Russian religious center in Paris. Hollande said he would only meet with Putin to talk about halting the Russian-Syrian attack on the rebel-held quarters of the Syrian city of Aleppo, an attack the French leader described as “Russia’s shame.”
Even the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, is back on the scene, warning in an interview with Russian media that “the world has got to a dangerous place.” The residents of Aleppo would most likely agree with that statement.
Kiselyov’s “nuclear dimension” TV show was rather boastful about the Russian vector of that nuclear dimension, reminding his audience that Russian missiles, recently moved near Poland and Lithuania, were capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
International Business Times reported on Sunday that tabloid newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets openly predicted a military confrontation between the United States and Russia, comparing it to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“Just imagine that the U.S. does what it has wanted to do for a long time and strike against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, not by mistake but on purpose and openly. Should Russia defend its ally or consider striking against the Americans, but this would definitely lead to a Third World War,” the newspaper said.
According to Bloomberg News, Russian Senator Alexi Pushkov, former head of the foreign affairs committee, also mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis in a recent Twitter post.
Moscow State Institute of International Relations analyst Alexander Krylov upped the ante by saying the Syria situation “looks similar to the Suez Crisis of 1956, or the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis” and warning that Syria could “lead to far more serious consequences.”
He blamed this on American policymakers, saying they want to continue “playing a dominant role across the entire globe,” and “when this doesn’t work, as is the case in Syria, Washington gets severely irritated.”
For good measure, he accused the Obama administration of being willing to work with “Islamist terrorists” to achieve its objective of overthrowing Bashar Assad, and blamed the U.S. for doing “anything and everything in its power to ensure that any Syrian army offensive gets bogged down,” thus needlessly prolonging the human suffering of the doomed Syrian insurrection.