Trump says U.S.-Russia relations worse now than during Cold War — he may be right
And according to one political science expert, he may be right.
“Russia is still very dangerous and has the capacity to devastate the United States,” said Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto.
“The Cold War was an orderly competition; there were rules to the game. Now the rules aren’t there, and there is a lot more unpredictability,” he added.
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Trump made the statement about the two nations Wednesday morning on Twitter after he threatened Russia to “get ready” for a missile strike on Syria, and vowed to stop any missile defenses from the Kremlin.
In the tweet, not only did Trump say Washington’s ties to Russia were at their worst point in history, he also called on the country to end the arms race.
“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?” Trump wrote.
It’s not just Trump making this diplomatic claim. In early April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said relations between the two nations have never been worse.
“The situation is worse compared to the classical Cold War since some sort of rules were in force at that time and some decency was in place,” Lavrov said.
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In recent months, U.S. and Russia have expelled dozens of each others’ diplomats, and America has been gearing up sanctions against Russian officials and businesses due to Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
But is the relationship worse than during the Cold War?
Cold War nuclear close call
From 1947 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the risk of nuclear war hung over the world as relations between Moscow as the West remained at a dangerous standoff.
In 1962, the two nations came to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For example, during this crisis, a Soviet submarine commander was being harassed by an American warship and decided he was going launch a nuclear torpedo at the U.S. vessel.
It would have ended in disaster if not for a contingency measure that had required all three of the submarine’s senior officials to sign off on the nuclear launch. The captain and the ship’s political officer agreed, but another commander aboard refused. This detail probably prevented a nuclear war.
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Are tensions still worse now?
There are many examples of “close calls” that the West and the Soviet Union had during the Cold War, as tensions mounted due to equipment failures, war games and spy missions.
Braun said it may not be the same political landscape today, but it’s still a dangerous game between the two nations.
“Russia is no longer a superpower, so in that way, it may not be worse,” Braun said. “Before, the countries had different [and competing] ideologies and they wanted to expand those across the world, so there was also constant tension and a threat of nuclear war.”
“In that sense, no, this is not the Cold War. But we should not dismiss it,” he added.
Even though Russia is much weaker than the Soviet Union was, Braun said, there is far more unpredictability now.
“Russia surprised the West by moving into Ukraine and taking Crimea … and now there’s Syria. It’s not likely that Russia is planning a massive attack, but it could launch military action against the Baltic States. Russia is still very aggressive,” he added.
Because of Vladimir’s Putin’s unpredictability and his decision not “to play by the rules,” Trump may be right about the two nations’ deteriorating relationship, Braun said.
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Russia still has nuclear weapons and it continues to modernize them. And if the country were to take over a Baltic state, he said it would be difficult for the West to respond in time.
“There could be a greater risk now than during the Cold War. Mr. Putin has behaved recklessly and exploits weaknesses in international relations. This makes things really dangerous and could escalate,” Braun said
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