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The Daily Vertical: Putin's Unilateral Cold War (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

In case you missed them, here are a few data points just from the past few days.

Russia launched massive civil-defense drills this week involving 200,000 emergency personnel and the cooperation of 40 million civilians.

Those drills came after Zvezda TV, which is run by the Defense Ministry, reported that "schizophrenics from America are sharpening nuclear weapons for Moscow."

Also this week, Russia unilaterally pulled out of two nuclear agreements with the United States.

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And in St. Petersburg, local officials are now required to report all contacts with foreign entities.

We seem to be in a very strange and surreal place.

Vladimir Putin's regime is acting as if it is already at war with the West.

It's launching massive and persistent cyberattacks, it's waging information warfare, engaging in nuclear posturing, violating NATO airspace, and mobilizing its population for a conflict.

But the West isn't really acting like it's at war with Russia.

It's really strange. It's like a unilateral Cold War.

Now, part of this is explained by domestic politics as the Kremlin prepares to mobilize the public to support a fourth term for Putin.

But it also stems from a burning desire on the part of the Putin regime to be a global superpower -- and a willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to create that illusion.

And all this puts the West in a paradoxical position.

Responding in kind gives Putin exactly what he wants. But not responding only encourages additional provocations.

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