The Cold War is supposed to be over. Unlike formal wars, the Cold War was not ended by a peace treaty, but there has been general agreement that with the end of the Soviet Union, the tensions between Russia and the United States are not what they were for over 40 years. No more Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), no more sirens in New York City with terrified school children trembling under their desks, no more pounding shoes on the table at the United Nations, no more massive buildup of troops in Central Europe. Welcome to détente, welcome to looking in Putin's eyes to see a man we can do business with, welcome to resetting the button between the two countries.
All of this comes to mind with three recent events. The death of Svetlana Stalina, the only daughter and last surviving child of Josef Stalin, brought back headlines about the cruel dictator still revered by certain people. Indeed, his statute remained in the town square of his birthplace Gori in Georgia until June 2010, over 50 years after his death in 1953. (There were confrontations about its removal. I am still waiting for the removal of Lenin's tomb from the Kremlin.)
The recent publication of a most impressive biography of George Kennan by Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis also brings back the history of the period between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. George Kennan, fluent in Russian, opened the first U.S. Embassy in Moscow after the War. Author of the famous Long Telegram and X article in Foreign Affairs, he is credited with conceiving the policy of containment which dominated U.S. foreign policy towards Russia for years - Ukraine and Georgian membership in NATO could be considered a modern extension of the containment policy. Kennan spent most of his later years rejecting the hard line positions to Moscow of his successors, but he dominated and symbolized much of the Cold War, including an expulsion from Moscow and posting as Ambassador. For those interested in the history of that period, including the division of Germany, the use of atomic weapons, Tito and the Former Yugoslavia, etc, the book is a fascinating read.
Is all this merely food for historians? Not at all. Soon after the celebration of Russia's joining the W.T.O., Russia has just opened a new anti-missile radar station in the Baltic Sea region as a response to the West's continuing to develop its missile shield system in Eastern Europe. Russia even went so far as to threaten to deploy missiles to target U.S. missile shields in Europe. President Medvedev said that Russia will have to take military countermeasures such as deploying missiles in Kaliningrad if the U.S. continues to build the shield against legal guarantees that it will not be aimed against Russia, according to the Guardian.
All this may be hype before the December 4 elections in Russia, but memories of the Cold War are still alive, and certain remnants do remain.