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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cheney, Putin Can't Get Beyond Cold War Talk

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It is good to hear -- although not surprising -- that President Vladimir Putin does not believe we are returning to the Cold War. His comments to reporters in Sochi over the weekend seem to be a response to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's remark in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 4 that "none of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy."

Both Cheney and Putin appear to be saying, "We are annoyed that each of our countries is putting itself first and not being what the other wants it to be. But this is not a war. This is a political game while we deal with the issues that we are really preoccupied with: terrorism, nuclear threats, security and energy."

It is highly unlikely that a Cold War could happen again. First, Russia is not important enough in the grand scheme of things to have a war with. The United States and Russia could bicker over, say, Ukraine or Georgia, but such disagreements are not enough to cause an all-encompassing fight. Besides, there are other much more pressing and real threats, like terrorism, for both countries to worry about.

Also, there are no geopolitical conditions for a Cold War. There is no longer a world ideological divide in which one ideology wants to take over the other. In fact, both Russia and the United States today have the same ideology -- a mixture of democracy and capitalism.

However, there is some annoyance in Moscow and Washington, and the language of the Cold War creeps into the rhetoric of senior officials on both sides. Cheney, a true Cold Warrior going back all the way to Richard Nixon, is warped by suspicion and doesn't believe that the former communist giant can really change. Putin, who doesn't implement democracy the way the United States expects him to, is thus not only a suspect but also a confirmation of Cheney's suspicions.

For his part, Putin, although too young to be a true Cold Warrior, does believe that the Soviet Union was a great state and wants the same kind of recognition for Russia. The Soviet Union may have had its problems, but international respect -- fear, actually -- was unquestionable.

While officials may have their annoyances, they recognize that Russia and the United States have plenty of common interests, including energy strategy and nuclear talks with Iran and North Korea.

But as long as the United States and Russia remain unclear about whether they are friends or foes, the Cold War rhetoric will continue. Let's face it, we all need an enemy, and while Osama bin Laden and Shamil Basayev are at large, terrorism is too amorphous a cause.

Nina L. Khrushcheva teaches international affairs at the New School in New York.