Apr 5, 2018

Cold War 2.0

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Despite President Trump’s mixed appraisals of the Russian threat, a clear consensus is emerging among foreign policy experts on both sides of the Atlantic: this is a new Cold War, with new dangers.

Why it matters: “We are deep into what you might call Cold War 2.0," Brookings Institution fellow Strobe Talbott said Wednesday, and this time it's "far more dangerous."

  • Like the last time around, Talbott argues, it’s a zero sum game with both ideological and geopolitical dimensions at play. But this time, “there is no process underway to mitigate” the threat of a hot war, and we’re in an “arms race without arms control." 

This is escalating fast. Consider:

  • One month ago, Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury, poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.
  • The U.K., U.S. and some two dozen other countries accused Russia, and expelled dozens of diplomats. A European diplomat tells me the goals were relatively modest — to do something “sufficiently painful” to show Moscow “the costs of doing this kind of thing exceed any benefit.”
  • That led to a tit-for-tat response from the Kremlin, with U.S. diplomats boarding buses and leaving the Moscow embassy this morning, per the AP.
  • Before the end of the week, the Trump administration will sanction “at least a half-dozen” Russian oligarchs with ties to Vladimir Putin under a law designed to punish Moscow for election meddling, Reuters and the Washington Post report.

Talbott, who served in Bill Clinton's State Department, said the Russian threat is magnified by the decline of “transatlantic institutions and trust,” and the lack of a coherent Russia policy from the White House. (“We’ve had bad policies, but never no policy.”)

  • Sir Francis Richards, the former chief of GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA), told the Economist Radio the new Cold War “has rules that bind us but none that bind the aggressors.”

The bottom line: Things will get worse before they get better.

For more stories like this, sign up for the new Axios World newsletter.

Go deeper

Concern over coronavirus spread: Italy, South Korea and Iran report more cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The number of novel coronavirus cases in South Korea, Italy and Iran jumped on Sunday as infections in mainland China continued to grow, the latest figures show.

The big picture: As South Korea and Italy stepped up emergency measures amid rising case numbers, World Health Organization officials expressed concern about infections with no clear link to China. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,619 people and infected almost 80,000 others, with all but 27 deaths occurring in mainland China.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Sanders reveals free childcare plan for preschoolers

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally on Saturday in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Cengiz Yar/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders announced on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday a new plan to guarantee free child care and pre-kindergarten to all American children from infancy to age four.

Details: In the wide-ranging interview, Sanders told Anderson Cooper he planned to pay for universal childcare with a wealth tax. "It's taxes on billionaires," he said.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden places second in Nevada caucuses, ahead of Pete Buttigieg

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden a Nevada Caucus watch party in Las Vegas on Saturday. Photo: Ronda Churchill/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden secured second place in the Nevada Democratic caucuses with former Southbend Mayor Pete Buttigieg third, according to NBC News projections Sunday.

Why it matters: It's a boost for Biden, who's widely tipped to be endorsed by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Wednesday, ahead of this week's South Carolina primary.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy