Guerra Fría

Hace unas semanas, Mijail Gorbachov -el último líder de la Unión Soviética y el hombre que hizo más que cualquier otro por poner fin a la Guerra Fría- le dijo al diario alemán Bild que es posible “reconocer todas las características de una nueva guerra fría en el mundo de hoy”. Estados Unidos “ya ha arrastrado” a Rusia a este escenario, dijo Gorbachov, en un esfuerzo por “concretar su idea triunfalista general”.

Ahora bien, ¿el actual antagonismo entre Estados Unidos y Rusia es realmente “nuevo”? ¿Y es creíble responsabilizar de manera categórica a Estados Unidos, como tienden a hacer Gorbachov y ciertamente el Kremlin?…  Seguir leyendo »

Being Bulgarian, I can tell you that international news media cover elections in small European countries the same way a literature professor reads a spy novel during a summer holiday: It’s a pleasant diversion, but one quickly forgets the characters, and it doesn’t really matter if the narrative gets scrambled. Normally, this is not a problem, but it can become one next year.

In 2017 there will be elections not only in Germany, France and the Netherlands but also most likely in Greece, Italy and, again, Bulgaria. This will be a moment of truth for Europe. Social media is being invaded by fake news and conspiracy theories, while mainstream outlets are obsessed with the Kremlin’s interference in the electoral politics of Western democracies.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Kremlin account of Russia’s national interests is poisoned by assumptions formed in a world which passed away with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR. For instance, President Vladimir Putin praised the post-Second World War Yalta settlement in his address to the UN General Assembly on 28 September 2015 for providing decades of stability. That implausible claim was repeated and elaborated by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his essay on the historical background of Russian foreign policies published in the March edition of Russia in Global Affairs, a journal sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Murió, aseguran, el día de Nochebuena. Tenía 72 años, y si este país nuestro concediera medallas a quien las merece y no a quien las mendiga, Ignacio Rupérez las hubiera tenido todas, incluida la más difícil de obtener, aquella que se debe conceder a quien fue una persona íntegra, un diplomático impecable y un caballero con el que se podía pasar una tarde entera, llegar a la noche, fumarse interminables tabacos e ir desgranando historias de otro tiempo, de cuando las cosas no se escribían, porque estaba prohibido. De la carrera diplomática, donde la desproporción entre talento y soberbia resulta desmedida en detrimento de la inteligencia, salvo a muy pocos.…  Seguir leyendo »

We often think of history as somehow inevitable, the culmination of great, grinding geotectonic forces. What to make, then, of Günter Schabowski, who died this week at age 86. Few people will mark the passing of this improbable man of destiny, who made Cold War history with a shrug.

It was the evening of Nov. 9, 1989. A few weeks earlier a band of Communist Party reformers ousted the hard-line boss of the German Democratic Republic, as the eastern part of Germany behind the Iron Curtain was then known. Faced with mass protests in Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, they sought to project a new face of change.…  Seguir leyendo »

El Óscar habló. No ganaron ni Leviatán, la cinta rusa nominada para mejor película extranjera, ni Francotirador, nominada para mejor película. Pero las dos, en cierto modo, son las más representativas del año, porque cada una captura la esencia de por qué Rusia y Estados Unidos parecen estar condenados a librar una nueva Guerra Fría.

Tras la invasión rusa a Ucrania, a Leviatán le esperaba una batalla de relaciones públicas cuesta arriba. Pero su desolador retrato de la vida en la Rusia de hoy no hace más que confirmar muchas de las razones por las que en general, los estadounidenses dudaban de que Rusia fuera capaz de reformarse tras la caída del comunismo.…  Seguir leyendo »

The decision by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to annex Crimea ended the post-Cold War era in Europe. Since the late Gorbachev-Reagan years, the era was defined by zigzags of cooperation and disputes between Russia and the West, but always with an underlying sense that Russia was gradually joining the international order. No more.

Our new era is one defined by ideological clashes, nationalistic resurgence and territorial occupation — an era in some ways similar to the tragic periods of confrontation in 20th-century Europe. And yet there are important differences, and understanding the distinction will be critical to a successful American foreign policy in the coming decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

If one is to believe the newspaper headlines and TV talking heads, we are in the midst of “a new Cold War” as a result of Russia’s decision to seize Crimea. Perhaps for many people on both sides of the Atlantic the comparison is comforting: After all, the real Cold War was the last war that America and the West “won,” or seemed to have won. But it is seriously misleading.

This is not a new Cold War. The world is not heading for a clash of civilizations between two fundamentally different ways of ordering society.

It is a tragedy for Russia, and for its near neighbors, that after the Soviet Union collapsed the state was stolen by the likes of Vladimir V.…  Seguir leyendo »

Avec l’acmé de la crise ukrainienne, les commentaires suggérant que nous vivons une nouvelle guerre froide se sont multipliés. Mais cette image est inappropriée et même dangereuse. La guerre froide reposait sur quatre piliers : l’existence de deux superpuissances dominant la planète ; la reconnaissance mutuelle du statu quo en Europe ; une compétition idéologique entre deux modèles ; une rivalité à l’échelle mondiale.

Ce temps est révolu. Le différentiel de puissance économique et militaire entre Washington et Moscou est bien supérieur à ce qu’il était à l’époque, et la distribution du pouvoir à l’échelle planétaire est beaucoup plus floue : nous sommes, au choix, dans un monde multipolaire ou apolaire.…  Seguir leyendo »

Today the effort to preserve the planet’s biodiversity is often seen as a campaign to save the whales for their own sake, or to give polar bears a few more winters on the Arctic ice. But in the 1950s, when the concept was first discussed, it was understood that far more was at stake. The “conservation of variety,” as it was called during the early years of the cold war, was no less than a strategy of human survival.

At that time, American military leaders and scientists were contemplating the possibility of total war with the Soviet Union, with not only civilians, but plants, animals and entire ecosystems as fair game.…  Seguir leyendo »

In November 1983, during an autumn of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, a skilled Soviet military communications specialist struggled in secret for 10 days to send a radio signal from a waterlogged tunnel deep inside a mountain in the Urals. The code name of the redoubt was “Grot,” or grotto. Around him, construction crews blasted away at the rock, building a hardened command post for the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces. The specialist’s goal was to find out if a radio signal could penetrate the mountain and reach the outside. If so, it would be from there that Soviet rocket commanders might manage a nuclear war.…  Seguir leyendo »

On June 12, 1987, the cold war entered a terminal phase, in ways that few could have anticipated, and in fact, almost no one did — with the exception of a president down on his legendary luck.

If in 1984 Ronald Reagan had proclaimed that it was “morning again in America,” three years later the evening was coming fast for a presidency that had spent most of its energy. The Iran-contra scandal had damaged him, and in March 1987 only 42 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing. Reagan’s diary reveals a president losing focus, with entries registering more enthusiasm for old videos than the crushing business of state.…  Seguir leyendo »

By the time I arrived in West Berlin, in 1962, the wall was a year old. The half-city was a hysterical, intellectually exciting place; the wall, whose construction began 50 years ago today, made it more so. From the East and West radio and TV stations you heard competing, mutually exclusive versions of every event. Worldviews counted more than facts. And there were spies everywhere. For fun, a journalist told me, he’d count the intelligence services operating in West Berlin; he stopped at 30.

I could sense the pain and anger unleashed by the wall. Families, lovers and friends were separated.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Saturday, Germany will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the biggest and grimmest construction projects in history — the building of the Berlin Wall. Photographs of the wall, which overnight brutally severed streets, rail lines and families, have been on display in front of Berlin government buildings for several months. On Saturday, the memorial events will last all day and include a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the victims of the former communist East German government.

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall, in 2009, attracted a lot more attention in the U.S. It was a victory we like to claim, especially triumphalist conservatives.…  Seguir leyendo »

I’ve always found it rather haunting to watch old footage of my grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, giving his televised farewell address to the nation on Jan. 17, 1961. The 50-year-old film all but crackles with age as the president makes his earnest, uncoached speech. I was 9 years old at the time, and it wasn’t until years later that I understood the importance of his words or the lasting impact of his message.

Of course, the speech will forever be remembered for Eisenhower’s concerns about a rising “military-industrial complex,” which he described as “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions” with the potential to acquire – whether sought or unsought – “unwarranted influence” in the halls of government.…  Seguir leyendo »

El 9 de noviembre de 1989 era jueves y yo me encontraba en Bruselas, como director que era entonces de la Dirección General de Desarrollo de la Comisión Europea, esperando volver a Barcelona al día siguiente, lo que hacía cada fin de semana. A última hora de la tarde, las autoridades de la República Democrática Alemana suprimían la restricción a viajar al Oeste y mis compañeros alemanes de trabajo estaban eufóricos, aun sin saber a ciencia cierta qué iba a suceder a partir de entonces.

Nadie podía saber que aquel primer paso iba a desencadenar la desaparición del comunismo en toda Europa Central y del Este, el desmembramiento de la entonces Unión Soviética y un cambio muy notable de parámetros económicos para Alemania, para Europa y para el mundo.…  Seguir leyendo »

During the Cold War, the Eastern Bloc was a dark place. To Westerners, that seemed true both literally (the lights often went out) and ideologically (the Iron Curtain blocked freedom’s beacon). The darkness made it difficult to see individuals; Poles, Hungarians and Czechs seemed a crowded multitude whose individualism had been crushed by the heavy hand of collectivism.

In 1989, the lights suddenly came on, and individuals emerged. Images changed overnight. Out went the Bulgarian shot-putters and East German swimmers who looked as if they had been made in a laboratory. The crowds who chiseled away at the Berlin Wall or cheered in Wenceslas Square looked instead surprisingly ordinary — made up of slightly shabbier versions of ourselves.…  Seguir leyendo »

Peter and Angela Hofmann aren’t a typical German couple. For one thing, they met online, a rarity in this techno-wary country.

For another, the couple, both 55, moved this year from Berlin to rural Brandenburg state near the Polish border to open a pension, or bed and breakfast — a risky move in a down economy.

But most striking of all is where they come from: Peter, who was born near Dresden, is what Germans call an Ossi, a child of communist East Germany, while Angela is from West Berlin, making her a Wessi.

It’s been two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, yet the split between east and west is stronger than ever.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imagine waking up one fine Sunday morning to learn that they are laying down barbed wire in Washington. The coils cut off the western side of the District from Northeast and Southeast. Over the next three years, the steel wire is replaced by a wall of concrete 12 feet high. Now you are trapped, and if you’re on the wrong side, the Washington Monument might just as well be the moon. Grim guards at fortresslike checkpoints along the District boundaries go through your papers and your car before you may proceed on special transit roads.

This is what happened in Berlin, starting on Aug.…  Seguir leyendo »

Once events make their passage from news of the day into history books, it is hard to imagine that they could have happened any other way. They’re history, after all. And 20 years later, the fall of the Berlin Wall seems like that kind of history — a world-changing event that we commemorate and celebrate, its heroes and villains well established, its images and significance clearly comprehended.

But the real story of the wall coming down is a lot less tidy than it may appear in the rear-view mirror. The “decision” to open the border was not a conscious choice at all.…  Seguir leyendo »