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A Hint of Cold War

DW staff (ncy/th)February 12, 2007

Europe's editorialists commented on Russian President Putin's speech at the Munich security conference in which he accused the United States of making the world a more dangerous place.

Putin's verbal attack on the US ruffled feathers at the Munich security conferenceImage: AP

"Russia again claims a place in the first row, and with its nuclear arsenal, its size, and its oil and gas riches it has, by all means, weighty arguments," wrote the Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in its Monday edition. "The USA offers another with its disastrous Iraq adventure. Since that weakens Western credibility, it creates the opportunity for Putin to set himself up as the powerful voice of the growing number of countries and peoples who are stricken by doubt in the wisdom of Western policies. The Russian president has laid his cards on the table. Europe and America now know where Russia has positioned itself."

"In Vladimir Putin's controlled 'democracy,' power-political rowdiness is at least as pronounced as the need for cooperation," commented the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily. "In view of the general development of the past years, it's assumedly even somewhat greater at the moment -- as a signal from the Kremlin that Russia 'is back.' One reason why Putin acts as he did in Munich and why Russia 'is back' in world politics has come to light: It is the petrol power that straightened out its self-confidence again. In addition, comes the knowledge that America and its European allies want to have Russia by their side in dealing with conflicts, and the correct appraisal that the Bush administration currently finds itself in anything but a comfortable situation," the paper continued.

"How does one deal with Putin's Munich blunder?" asked the Westdeutsche Zeitung from Düsseldorf. "Glossing over it, as some Europeans try to do, would be just as wrong as responding with more verbal poison. In view of worldwide problems, it's important that Russia remains level-headed and collaborates on finding solutions. The next test will be the expiration of the UN's 60-day deadline for Iran to discontinue its nuclear program, at the end of February. Now more than ever Russia is unlikely to back a further UN resolution."

The Times of London said Monday that Putin's harsh comments were more than just another repeat of the Bush Administration's mistakes. "If the US Administration didn’t have enough to worry about, given the current state of the world, it spent much of the weekend wondering whether Moscow had declared another Cold War…Not since Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table at the United Nations in 1960 has an international gathering heard such an icy blast from Moscow’s leadership."

Conservative French newspaper Le Figaro noted Putin had increased the hostile tone between Russia and the United States as part of his crusade against Washington. "This was Vladimir Putin's variations on an old theme. Many participants at the Security Conference asked themselves the question of whether the Second Cold War was being announced in Munich."

Putin wants to make it clear that he won't allow outsiders to meddle in Russia's domestic affairs, said Budapest newspaper Nepszabadsag. "Should that be a Cold War? Or only an expression of the self-confident unity of an energy supplier equipped with enormous foreign exchange reserves? Is 'soverign democracy' not merely a pretty name for new authoritarianism? There is currently no confrontation. There are discussions. These won't allow the disruption of dialogue about foreign and arms policy, over the issue of Eastern European democracies and the human rights. At least not for the time being."

Bulgarian newspaper Dnewnik warned that Europe's energy dependence gives Putin power. "The current strategy of the Kremlin is to strike while the iron is hot -- namely so long as Europe depends on Russia to supply a fifth of its energy needs."