It is a common trope for US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin to warn that relations between the world’s two leading nuclear powers face the most serious crisis since the Cold War’s darkest era. Both men have also reflected on the need to improve their relationship in the interests of peace and global stability. Unfortunately, beyond aggrieved statements and expressions of goodwill, things are not getting better. There are even moments when the positive words collapse into acrimony and the threat arises once again of a peace that is no peace.
The latest warning sign has come from the announcement by the Trump administration that the US is to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), agreed with the Soviet Union in 1987. A Russian senator explicitly accused Trump of “returning the world to the Cold War”. It is clear that this undermining of the Cold War framework for detente and cooperation is dangerous for the world.
Equally concerning was the escalation of the Syrian conflict in Idlib province, where regime forces, supported by the Russian military, were massing to assault the last bastion of rebels and terrorists. Meanwhile, Washington had already pre-emptively accused Bashar al-Assad of the use of chemical weapons and concentrated a naval squadron to be ready for missile strikes. The episode was reminiscent of the Caribbean Crisis of 1962, when controversy about Soviet missiles in Cuba almost led to another world war.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies