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Ordinary Russians Will Suffer in Putin's New Cold War

Published: July 21, 2014 (Issue # 1820)




  • Photo:

More than a century ago the writer Anton Chekhov said, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following act it should be fired." Events in eastern Ukraine seem to be following this script advice.

As sophisticated, powerful and allegedly Russian weaponry gradually accumulated in the hands of various terrorist groups, it was clear that sooner or later it would lead to disaster. The downing of Flight MH17, shot down by a missile fired from a BUK — SA-11 Gadfly, by NATO classification — became that disaster. It was purely accidental that the victims were almost 300 foreign passengers.

The shot from the BUK was the last nail in the coffin of the reassuring theory that a repeat of the Cold War was impossible. As it turns out, it is possible. In fact, its circumstances can be repeated exactly, right down to the shooting down of a civilian passenger liner, just like the way KAL-007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet in 1983.

It appears that a full-blown Cold War II is under way. Just like 40 years ago, there are proxy wars taking away dozens and hundreds of lives every day — like in Syria, where the main players are no longer the government and rebels, but foreign governments including Russia, which is providing arms and other support to Syrian President Bashir Assad. Russian diplomats have gotten used to interacting with their Western colleagues with aggressive rhetoric, as if they had taken their cue from Nikita Khrushchev, pounding his shoe on the desk at the United Nations.

The open and honest exchange of information between Russia and the West has almost entirely moved to the Internet. "Western public opinion" is represented on Russian television by marginal figures, from the 9/11 Truthers to leaders of European neo-Nazi parties, interspersed with professional Putin lovers from among the community of Western political experts.

For several years, Russia has been carrying out a quiet war against Western charities and non-government organizations, gradually drumming them out of the country. Meanwhile, over the last few months Western economic sanctions against Russia have been slowly but effectively ramped up.

And despite official denials, economists say that these sanctions can really hurt the Russian economy.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Jan. 26


Feeling stressed by the crisis? The Northwest Coach University at 3 Ulitsa Vostsstanaya is hosting a master class by lifecoach Tatiana Almazova. She will shed light on the coaching process, the usefulness of coaching during times of economic downturn and how coaching can improve your career and business prospects. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free. Pre-register by calling 424 3700.



Discover the State Hermitage Museum's collection of English painting at a lecture by art historian Yelizaveta Renne at the Prince Galitzine Library, 46 Nab. Reki Fontanki. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the lecture will be followed by a concert of arias, songs and duets by English composer Henry Purcell. The event is free of charge.



Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



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