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Inside Story

Is a new Cold War brewing?

Old wounds appear to be opening between Russia and the US over Moscow's decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden.

Last Modified: 12 Aug 2013 08:55
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Relations between the US and Russia have hit a new low, with Barack Obama, the US president, openly stating that their partnership just is not working.

Russia is a deeply undemocratic and authoritarian and illiberal regime .... What do you need for democracy? You need free and fair elections; Russia doesn’t have it. You need a free press; Russia does not have a free press …. And finally you need a separation of powers between the executive and the legislature ... and Russia does not have that either.

James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House

Washington is still fuming at Moscow's decision to grant temporary asylum to US whistleblower Edward Snowden, and now Obama has pulled out of talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

"I think the latest episode is just one more in a number of emerging differences that we've seen over the last several months - around Syria, around human rights issues - where it is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia's going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship so that we're doing things that are good for the United States, and hopefully good for Russia as well, but recognising that there are just going to be some differences and we're not going to be able to completely disguise them," Obama declared.

The Russians have called the decision disappointing. But while Snowden may have been the catalyst, Obama and Putin have never been close and differing positions on Syria, missile defence and human rights issues are also a factor in the deteriorating relations.  

Russia has been criticised over its treatment of homosexuals after Putin signed a law in June banning what the Russian government calls "gay propaganda".

The law imposes fines on anyone taking part in gay pride demonstrations, or anyone considered to be making homosexuality appear attractive to minors.

The law has triggered outrage across the globe, with some calling for next year's Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi to be cancelled or held elsewhere.

Obama has weighed in on this controversy, saying the best way for gay athletes to send a message to Russia is to win big at the Games.

So, just why are relations between Russia and the US deteriorating? And where might this lead? Could the world be heading towards a 21st century Cold War?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by James Nixey, the head of the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House, and Dmitri Babich, a political analyst and writer for Russia Profile magazine.

"Objectively there are no reasons for a new Cold War, and I just don't buy it that Mr. Putin is an anti-Western president. I don't believe the stories about tens of thousands of Russian weapons for Syria ... and besides that give me an example of real anti-Western actions that Mr. Putin has done during his twelve years in office."

Dmitri Babich, a political analyst and writer

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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