David Satter, working for US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Library, has been expelled from working in Russia – the first such case since the Cold War. If anyone asks why this blog is called Cold War Daily, look no further than an incident like this. The tit-for-tat diplomatic retaliation has occurred with increasingly frequency between the US and Russia in recent years. And while the case of David Satter has obvious Cold War echoes (even RFE was created by the US in response to the Communist countries during the Cold War) you have to wonder where this is leading. The US and Russia have clashed over Ed Snowden, the Magnitsky case, the role of Western civil society groups in Russia, and the adoption of Russian ophans by the US.
In the latest incident, according to this Time report, Satter was to pick up his visa at the Russian consulate in Kiev.
When Satter arrived in the Ukrainian capital, however, he says he was informed that his presence in Russia was “undesirable” and that his visa request was denied.
Below is an unofficial list of the recent diplomatic spats and retaliations between Russia and the US
- January 2014: Russia is to increase its missile defense in retaliation to US plans to expand a missile shield in Europe
- December 2013: US fills US Olympic delegation with prominent gay athletes in response to Russia law banning so-called gay propaganda in media and school
- September 2013: Russia outlaws US adoption of Russian orphans
- August 2013: Obama cancels meeting with President Vladimir Putin on sidelines of g20 in St Petersburg
- August 2013: Russia grants ex-NSA whistleblower (hero?) Edward Snowden one-year asylum
- May 2013: Russia orders expulsion of American diplomat accused of being CIA agent
- March 2013: Russia requires foreign-backed NGOs to register, effectively crippling them in Russia
- April 2013: Russia bans US tax, legal and court people business people in response to US action.
- December 2012: US bans Russians thought to be involved in the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky
- November 2011: The US repatriates a ring of Russian spies in a swap for four Russians accused of spying for the US
And yet, it would be wrong to characterize this as a full-blown return to the Cold War. Russia actively wants to improve its ailing economy and is willing to do business with American firms. The US currently relies on Russia to get American astronauts into space. The US offered security assistance to Russia after the recent bombings in Volgograd. So it’s not the iron curtain coming back. But in certain diplomatic circles there has been a distinct chill in the air between the US and Russia. This should be a gentle reminder to Americans that although the US “won” the Cold War (was the last man standing), in the words of the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum “the tactics of the old Cold War are now, at the dawn of 2014, suddenly being deployed in a manner not seen since the early 1980s.”