Jack Tame: A little heat left in that old cold war

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Mitt Romney cannot be blamed if he feels a sense of schadenfreude. Photo / AP
Mitt Romney cannot be blamed if he feels a sense of schadenfreude. Photo / AP

Mitt Romney hasn't had a week this good in a while. A week this good in the media, anyway.

Tending his various residences, sizeable family and myriad business interests, the former Massachusetts Governor has remained largely out of public life since losing the 2012 Presidential Election.

But if any true-blue patriotic American were to smirk a little as Russian troops rolled towards Crimea, you could hardly blame Mitt Romney for a schadenfreude-like urge.

An overnight crisis might make for shallow self-vindication, but his now infamous election campaign description of Russia as America's "Number One" geopolitical foe suddenly didn't seem so silly after all.

"The Cold War's been over for 20 years," said Barack Obama, mockingly, at the time.

Oops.

The term "geopolitical" is easily muddied - purposefully or otherwise - with other, more direct security threats. Few will suggest Vladimir Putin's moves into Ukraine signal an enthusiasm for direct military conflict with the US. Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and terrorists might prove much more deserving of immediate concern.

But whether adequately prepared or otherwise, Putin's move has left the West scrambling.

US Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis meetings across Europe and Hillary Clinton did a zero-to-100 in publicly drawing comparisons between Putin and Adolf Hitler.

The US State Department even made the unusually extreme move of issuing journalists with a Buzzfeed-style "Top Ten" fact sheet listing "President Putin's Fiction".

The Department, it should be noted, is not usually known for labouring journalists with discussion as to the legality of foreign wars.

President Obama, to his credit, has tried to withdraw the United States from wasteful foreign conflict. He pulled out of Iraq and is in the process of finalising withdrawal plans for Afghanistan. For the first time in a long time, the prospect of a foreign conflict-free US is just over the horizon.

Or not. At the very least, the crisis in Ukraine is proof Putin will consider expanding Russia's influence through more than just lubricated trade.

An empire can recover and rebuild in plenty of different ways, but an all-powerful former KGB man may not be as easy to read as many once thought.

The Cold War's been over for 20 years. Says who, sorry?

- Herald on Sunday

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