A New Cold War or a New Detente

The U.S. government’s rush into the New Cold War with Russia has stumbled because of Donald Trump’s victory and growing resistance in Europe, giving rise to a possible New Détente, says Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

The U.S. presidential election presented the American voting public with a clear choice on the issue of the New Cold War with Russia, between worsening tensions and a chance for détente.

Hillary Clinton offered a continuation and intensification of the policies of isolation, denigration and confrontation with Russia that President Obama has pursued over the past three years, bringing us closer to nuclear war. Donald Trump favored a policy of outreach to Russia, initially focused on a common struggle against Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorism, but having the potential to mature into a broad constructive relationship.

Some of the estimated 12 million Russians who took part in Immortal Regiment parades across the country over three days. (RT photo)

Some of the estimated 12 million Russians who took part in Immortal Regiment parades across the country over three days in May 2016. (RT photo)

But the reality is that the foreign policy dimension of the votes cast on Nov. 8 was always going to be relatively minor, given Americans’ natural focus on domestic issues. And this year the whole electoral race was muddied by the vicious character assassinations practiced by both Republican and Democratic candidates.

In the op-ed article published below, which first appeared in The Nation, my fellow co-authors bring to the attention of a target audience of Americans interested in world affairs an opportunity to take a stand and “cast a vote” for peace that can materially affect the changing political landscape of Europe in 2017, where there will be nationwide elections in the locomotive nations of the European Union: France and Germany.

To be sure, as a result of the primary elections two weeks ago within the Center-Right party that bears the Gaullist traditions, the Republicans, and has the greatest likelihood of winning the Presidency in April-May 2017, the French appear to be choosing the more peaceful course on their own. They are rejecting Cold War rhetoric in favor of re-building ties to Russia.

However, in Germany, the candidate favored to win a fourth term in office in the autumn national elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel, considers herself the heir to Barack Obama’s “legacy” of belligerence towards Russia. At the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party convention in Essen on Dec. 6, she was re-elected as standard-bearer of her party with some 98 percent of the votes.

In this context, it is important that within Germany’s Socialist Party (SPD), which presently is Merkel’s coalition partner but will be competing against her in the federal elections next autumn and which keeps alive the memory of Germany’s own détente policy towards Russia, has now stepped out into the political arena and is gathering support from politicians both inside the SPD and in other parties to seek a change of direction with respect to Russia.

Where do Americans potentially fit into this equation? It would be no exaggeration to say that the Obama administration had a decisive role in scripting Angela Merkel’s shift from a policy of strategic partnership with Russia in 2008 to Cold War venom in 2016. Vice President Joe Biden boasted openly of the pressure the U.S. applied to achieve and maintain the sanctions against Russia in the European Union for which Germany was instrumental.

For these reasons, American citizens and organizations representing civil society should have no complexes about “influencing” the forthcoming German elections by demonstrating to their fellow-thinkers in the SPD and across the German political spectrum that the U.S. government did not speak for the American people when it imposed Cold War rules on the German chancellor and her backers in the ruling elites.

On the contrary, showing to German society that a peaceful Atlanticism is also possible and desirable, Americans could right the wrongs of the recent past. For those who wish to support this position, you can support the German pro-détente movement by signing the appeal:


The following is a position paper, “Détente Now: A New Call for Peace, Security, and Cooperation,” by Gilbert Doctorow, Ute Finckh-Krämer, Ludger Volmer, Rolf Ekéus and Noam Chomsky

Russian marchers honoring family members who fought in World War II. (Photo from RT)

Russian marchers honoring family members who fought in World War II. (Photo from RT)

A transatlantic appeal for a new policy of détente with Russia has been launched. The declaration’s authors invite the general public to join leading political figures and social activists who have publicly rallied to support the call.

The initiative was born in Berlin several months ago in the days of deepest gloom engendered by confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, the Baltic countries, and Syria, with major war exercises held around Russia’s borders and bellicose language from both sides that suggested imminent hot war. As German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank Walter Steinmeier (SPD) said in an interview with Bild newspaper on October 8, present times are more dangerous even than during the Cold War that ended in 1990: “Previously, the world was divided, but Moscow and Washington knew each other’s red lines and respected them. In a world with many regional conflicts and dwindling influence of the great powers, the world becomes more unpredictable.”

The roll-out of the initiative called Détente Now aims at bringing civil society on two continents into play both to enforce and to support approaches to pursue dialogue and compromise with Russian counterparts, e.g., on confidence- and security-building measures between Russia and its neighbors. Détente Now will be a powerful voice for change of direction in foreign policy within Europe, and within Germany in particular, as it and several other key EU countries have their national elections in the course of 2017.

In the United States, the word “détente” brings to mind the efforts of former presidents and secretaries of state to control and reduce strategic weapons and to find ways of cooperation instead of confrontation. In Germany, the equivalent policy, Entspannungspolitik, was crafted in the 1970s by Chancellor Willy Brandt and his close adviser Egon Bahr. Their “Eastern Policy” promoted rapprochement as a means of gradually changing the behavior and views of the opposing side. It is widely believed to have facilitated the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the original Cold War.

The Détente Now declaration specifically seeks implementation of the twin objectives of a “Europe whole and free” and a common space of peace and security extending from Lisbon to Vladivostok. That vision of all-European security set out in the Charter of Paris signed in 1990 by all European states and the institutionalization of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Budapest in 1994, was predicated upon respect for human rights and liberties, and upon equal security provisions for all. Regrettably, in the 1990s this grand vision was replaced by political and security schemes that left Russia out in the cold: the greater European Union and an expanded NATO. The result has been nearly calamitous, the authors of Détente Now believe.

The declaration was initiated by a few concerned citizens of civil society, churches, and science, including Wolfgang Biermann (former adviser to Egon Bahr), Peter Brandt (historian), Konrad Raiser (former secretary general of the World Council of Churches), Reiner Hoffmann (chairman of the German Trade Unions Federation), and Horst Teltschik, (former head of Chancellor Kohl’s office and 1999–2008 director of the Munich Security Conference), as well as, from the United States, Daniel Ellsberg (longtime advocate for an informed citizenry).

Many people from the United States, Germany, and other countries support the declaration in the wake of the American presidential election as a transatlantic appeal for a new policy of détente. Among the key first signatories in Germany are well-known Bundestag members from the SPD party, recently joined by a growing number of Green deputies, as well as city mayors, scientists, artists, and journalists. In the United States, the declaration has won the support of several board members of the American Committee for East West Accord, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the Association of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, Veteran Intelligence Officials for Sanity, and of celebrities from the film and music industries, among them Roger Waters (founding member of Pink Floyd) or David Kasper (an Academy Award–winning filmmaker).

Starting this month, the declaration will be published on various homepages, and public collection of more signatures of support will start. A German version can be found here, with an English version here.

The Initiative “neue Entspannungspolitik jetzt!” / “DetenteNOW!” will open a German- and English-language portal to make available literature relevant to the cause. Supporters of the declaration also propose to organize round-table discussions both in Europe and in the United States, and to set up direct US-German-Russian and other exchanges of civil society activists who support the initiative.

Gilbert Doctorow is a professional Russia watcher going back to 1965. He is a board member and European Coordinator of the American Committee for East-West Accord.

Ute Finckh-Krämer , Member of the German Bundestag, SPD, is a Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Arms Control and Disarmament in the German Bundestag.

Ludger Volmer was a member of the German Bundestag from 1985 to 1990 and 1994 to 2002. He was undersecretary of state from 1998 to 2002.

Rolf Ekéus of Sweden was executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Disarming Iraq from 1991 to 1997. He chaired the drafting of the principles of the Charter of Paris in 1990, a founding document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor emeritus at MIT, has written many books and articles on international affairs, in particular on Israel and Palestine. His latest book is Who Rules the World?

16 comments for “A New Cold War or a New Detente

  1. andrew bruce-jones
    December 21, 2016 at 23:06

    speculation on what may or may not have happened if the U.S.S.R had won the cold war, is in the main an almost pointless task, i would however like to say that Europe, with the exception of the U.K could well be a more united continent, the rise of neo-liberalism, which has been its biggest stumbling block for 3 decades+, would never have gotten such a stranglehold on political and economic models. why you might ask? Well for one, a more united europe including a strong Russia could not idoly stand by and partake/watch, while europes assets get sold off to corporate interests and private individuals, knowing that this would in essence, create a oligarchical economic situation, something Russia has been the victim of for decades before the end of the cold war. secondly political and social union with russia would i hope bring about a new european renaissance, which we all could of benefited from. but call me a dreamer and guilty of projection if you like, i dont mind lol.

  2. David Marcuse
    December 13, 2016 at 21:30

    If the enemies imagined or otherwise are big enough & scary enough to the American
    public then getting them to pay for billions more of F-35’s, nuclear powered air
    craft carriers & submarines will be a cake walk for the neo-cons/liberal interventionists.
    The amounts of money Lockheed & Companies will make & Goldman & Companies wi
    ould be stagering. DOD/Homeland/Intel could get closer to trillion dollar. And sadly
    for Hillary & Companies would just have to get money from Social Security/Medicare
    & rest of safety net. They really really don’t want to but protecting, the American
    people is priority #1. War on terrorism will never Lockheed /Goldman the kind
    of money they really deserve with a nice tip for the Clinton Foundation/Chelsea’s budding political career.
    Congrats on Izzy Award, one of very few heroes in my.lifetime . Thanks for Consortium.

  3. Demetrios Politis
    December 12, 2016 at 03:55

    Unfortunately, as President Eisenhower told us, the military industrial complex controls the USA. Their business is war, or preparation for war. We don’t need expensive aircraft to fight terrorists. So an enemy has to be invented. Russia fits their needs. NATO is needed to control the Europeans and get them in line. If Trump gets in their way he will be taken out, like Kennedy. They will find Islamist jihadists to blame for it, with the help of the intelligence establishment. It will take a real people’s revolution to brake their hold. You see, the military factories are in congressional districts, and the foolish congressmen vote for them to keep producing their weapons of war. It is “money in their districts”. Any suggestions on how to brake the military industrial complex and NATO? Only if Germany decides to take independent foreign policy line from the USA and pull other Europeans behind on a new policy toward Russia we may see change. The NSA has been listening to their conversations and may be able to blackmail them, however. That may be one reason for Merkel’s obedience to Washington. Could Snowden help us on this?

  4. elmerfudzie
    December 11, 2016 at 22:41

    At bottom, the essential problem(s) remain the same; those resource draining, large defense industries of the first and second worlds. Their tentacles reach deep into elected government officialdom, tax revenues, retirement funds, social security (SSA) funds. The corporate forethought and portfolio’s always dictating to us and setting the stage for long term financing, research and development projects AKA new wars. The USA and in particular the Democratic party is absolutely infested with and corrupted by defense manufacturers and their DC lobbyists. Until such time that our citizens (wake up) and demand that such lobbyists be thrown out of our legislative committees and electioneering, the rest of us HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CHANCE for peace, justice or democracy anywhere in the world (the mere existence of the NDA and Patriot Acts so testify s to this). If the globalist bug does eventually prevail then their first “global” agenda should be a grand legislative effort, perhaps beginning with the US Congress, German Bundestag, China’s CCP, England’s Palace of Westminster, Russian Federation Council, French Parliament and Japan’s National Diet, perhaps the Pontiff too? If a true need ever existed to hammer out a new Global “Magna Carta Libertatum” for military expenditures, the TIME IS NOW. A complete halt to funding sources (private or public) that exceed a mutually agreed upon”X” proportion of that countries GDP, intended for weapons research/ manufacturing. Without this SEVEN NATION binding treaty, humankind will find itself soon, smothered to death by endless war, national bankruptcies and Total Victory by the one and only true enemy of democracy-SECRECY. The efforts and plans for the next International Day of Peace will need to undergo some real bona fide metamorphosis, beginning with removing the single day into International month of Peace!

  5. Herman
    December 11, 2016 at 16:16

    An action plan to neutralize the neocon control of our foreign policy. European leaders latched on to the American push for a new Cold War, foolishly putting their constituents in far greater danger than faced by the United States and turning their backs on the benefits of greater cooperation and amity with Russia. Particularly egregious is the behavior of the leaders of the neighboring states like Lithuania and Poland where their populations would be the first to be decimated by war.

    Trump has a golden opportunity, let us hope he decides to pursue it with all the risks including being relegated to the political graveyard for dissidents. Paradoxically, his hope for success may lay with the generals he has courted, who understand the military and security culture that seeks greater and greater aggrandizement at the expense of peace. If he indeed intends to seriously pursue détente he will have to take his case to the people, no easy task with the media overwhelmingly on the side of the enemies of détente.

    The document cited by Professor Doctorow could be very useful and needs to be cited constantly by all who support a more sane world.

  6. Ragnar Ragnarsson
    December 10, 2016 at 13:40

    The Moronchurian Candidate?? I don’t think so.

  7. jimbo
    December 10, 2016 at 04:10

    But Trump is a fucking moron.

    Maybe the gaslighting is getting to me but lately RT seems way too friendly to Trump than any intelligent entity should be. If the US has shot itself in the foot it is understandable that Russia would let us bleed and moan about the pain but in the end would, if not help the US (how I don’t know), but their formerly pro-Bernie media should at least be objective about the moron we’ve elected. Instead they are treating Trump as if he might be some kind of a statesman. But Trump is a fucking moron! Maybe, just maybe Trump is Moscow’s man.

    • Tannenhouser
      December 11, 2016 at 10:35

      Ya so they should become belligerent to a man who throws hissy fits over crying babies? Ya that would make sense. Sounds like American statecraft not Russian. Therein lies your answer.

  8. Realist
    December 10, 2016 at 03:08

    Hopefully, there can be a detente with Russia if Trump truly wants it, is not hamstrung by Obama’s last ditch efforts to poison the waters (with, for example, the investigation he has now ordered into the alleged interference of Russia in our presidential election, any results of which will be kept hidden from the public in any event), and is not brainwashed by all the generals he has recruited to his cabinet into accepting the “conventional wisdom” that Russia is an existential threat to America which must be isolated and suppressed in every way possible.

    Frankly, Obama and his loudmouth sidekick Biden come off looking like nothing more than bigoted Russophobes in their treatment of Russia and its president. They would be called racists if they treated Israel with a fraction of the disrespect and hatred they direct toward Russia. With the tide turning in East Aleppo and the Washington-supported terrorists now on the run, it turns out that Obomber (or his Saudi surrogates) had supplied the “moderate” head choppers with manpads and tow missiles for the express purpose of killing Russians just as his bloodthirsty mouthpiece John Kirby constantly calls for.

    Trump had better clean out the nest of neocon vipers left in the administration after the present war-criminal-in-chief finally vacates the White House, unless he wants any peaceful overtures towards Russia sabotaged. The problem is there are so many subordinates to be replaced in the executive branch that many are carried over for years to thwart the will of the new administration. Some of these moles are given civil service jobs and cannot be discharged except for cause.

  9. ltr
    December 9, 2016 at 21:07

    I will participate, but I have little confidence that tensions will be eased. Even now the president has authorized new weapons to insurgents in Syria. A Cold War atmosphere has sadly been carefully cultivated in the United States.

  10. Ragnar Ragnarsson
    December 9, 2016 at 17:55

    I’d like to thank “the Terrible Trump” for making peaceful relations and cooperation with Russia part of his campaign.

  11. Jean Ranc
    December 9, 2016 at 16:14

    Thanks Gilbert! I just signed the Detente Now! Meanwhile, be aware of the American militarists promoting Trump to lead us in WWIII as seen in today’s NYTimes Op-Ed: “The World Fears Trump’s America. That’s a Good Thing.” by Mark Moyar, director of The Center for Military and Diplomatic History, “a program of the Foreign Policy Initiative, which was founded in July 2016 to connect historians to the national security policy in Washington, D.C.” It’s latest programs include: Robert Kagan “Emerginig US Defense Challenges” 12/6, “The Trump Administration is Right to Bring on the Generals” 12/2 & a video of FPI board member William Kristol interviewing Elliott Abrams on Fidel Castro 12/1….or the usual NeoCons. Meanwhile, do you or anyone else know whether this FPI is related to the FPRI/Foreign Policy Research Institute? cited by Mark Ames in his 12/9/16 Counterpunch piece, “The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by The Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fasism and CIA Spying”, where, besides the anonymous PropOrNot site list, he cites as one of the forces behind the Washington Post story. Also, Gilbert, in another piece, would you clarify the possible future role of the present German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeir, whom I understand has been essentially named/nominated as the next President of Germany & also approved by Merkel…and whether he would support this Detente Now! movement…as his June charge of “saber rattling” at the NATO East European flaunting of some 30,000 troops.

  12. rosemerry
    December 9, 2016 at 14:44

    Delighted to join in some positive action. Now that we have the prospect of the Terrible Trump, we must not forget the Ogre Obama and his vice Blowhard Biden. All of us need to act.

  13. Bill Bodden
    December 9, 2016 at 14:12

    Many thanks to Consortium News for bringing this movement to our attention.

  14. The Artist formerly known as young man
    December 9, 2016 at 05:07

    The reason why US want a new cold war with Russia is because that’s the only success that they can claim in the last 25 years – “winning” the first cold war. So what better way to shore-up some self-confidence than to start a new cold war so they can “win” this one too, because any other “successes” don’t seem to be on the horizon. If the Soviet Union knew what the US would do after “winning” the cold war – squander everything that was gained and come to the brink of bankruptcy by engaging in useless wars – they would have quit the cold war much earlier. Who is really the winner of the cold war? Who is better off now than they were in 1991 – US or Russia? Judging by what has happened in the last 25 years, US didn’t deserve to “win” the cold war and to be given a free hand to torment the rest of the world as a reward for their accomplishments.

    • Maria S calef
      December 11, 2016 at 20:49

      USA wants to control the world Euro Assian continents.Following Brzeznski vission of “American primacy and its geostratigic imperative”that now seems that influence USA foreign policy and its expansionist vission to controll Eurasia landmass

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