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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Intelligence Squared debate report – “The West is provoking a new Cold War with Russia”

Lloyd Evans reports on the latest Spectator / Intelligence Squared debate

The West is provoking a new cold war with Russia

Jonathan Freedland

For the motion:
Alexei Pushkov
Anatole Kaletsky
Professor Norman Stone

Against the motion:

Edward Lucas

Dr Lilia Shevtsova
Ronald D. Asmus

and the West came head-to-head at Intelligence Squared on Tuesday night. Chairman Jonathan Freedland hailed the aptness of the subject. ‘Just after a new Russian president has been democratically elected. Although some might feel,’ he added, ‘that two of those words aren’t entirely accurate.’

First into the bear-pit, a super-smooth Muscovite with silvery hair and piercing blue eyes. Alexei Pushkov is both a professor of international relations and the presenter of Russian TV’s most popular current affairs show. He ran through a checklist of grievances. After 9/11 President Putin backed Bush even though most Russians wanted to remain neutral in the ‘war on terror’. US bases were established in central Asia; Russia approved UN backing for the invasion of Afghanistan; and Russian airspace was opened up during the Iraq war. So what was Russias reward? Putin got a trip to the Bush’s ranch in Crawford where he received ‘a nice barbecue and a Texan hat.’ Scant recompense. Meanwhile NATO continued to expand eastwards while the US set about ‘decoupling its nuclear security from Russias by withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.’ These acts of betrayal, argued Pushkov, weren’t just deceitful but misguided. The West needn’t suspect Russia of belligerence because ‘Russia hasn’t taken military action beyond its borders for 15 years.’ A powerful statistic backed up his argument. Russias annual military budget is $35bn. Americas is $525bn. He dismissed the current east-west tensions as ‘not a real cold war, a farcical cold war.’

For the opposition Edward Lucas used his rhetorical gifts to great effect. No one minded that his arguments were rooted in the Soviet past.

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Lloyd Evans
Written by
Lloyd Evans
Lloyd Evans is The Spectator's sketch-writer and theatre critic

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