Last week’s arrest of a security guard employed at the British embassy in Berlin, on suspicion of spying for Russia, serves as a stark reminder that the UK and its allies are in the thick of a new Cold War.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communist regimes, it appeared that the East-West stand-off had come to an end. Nato allies breathed a collective sigh of relief and looked to new horizons, believing their principal objective had been achieved and that Russia’s days as a superpower were consigned to the history books.
But in the intervening 30 years, after the initial hardships of the 1990s and the accession of Putin as president, Russia has sought to re-establish itself on the world stage. There can be little doubt that a second Cold War has crept upon our largely unsuspecting world. This is not just technological warfare, and in fact the old tactics of espionage and men on the ground are also in full swing.
Perhaps we have been too arrogant in the West to see what has really been going on. The warnings have been present for the past 20 years. Putin’s opponents have been exiled, imprisoned and even assassinated. The poisonings of Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei and Yulia Skripal serve as a reminder that the old ways of the Cold War are very much still alive. These poisonings were reminiscent of the 1978 murder of Georgi Markov, who was stabbed with an umbrella containing a deadly dose of ricin as he boarded a London bus at the height of the first Cold War.
Despite all the high-tech developments in espionage, the old methods of gathering information through contacts, informants, and agents seem to prevail.