International platform for disarmament and non-proliferation dialogue, research and education

The Lengthening Nuclear Shadow

by Angela Kane

Part of the Riga Dialogue Afterthoughts 2017: Transforming Euro-Atlantic Security Landscapes

“May you live in interesting times” is a curse attributed to the Chinese, but whether we see it as a curse or a challenge, we must accept that the international climate, and especially relations between the US, Europe and Russia, has perceptibly changed for the worse over the last few years.

Some have nostalgia for the Cold War and its black-and-white predictability. Everybody then knew where the red lines were and that they were not to be crossed. And despite the Cold War, disarmament and arms control treaties were negotiated and concluded: progress was possible, both multilaterally as well as bilaterally between the US and the Soviet Union.

Maybe we should instead be nostalgic for the 1990s, the decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the opening of the Eastern bloc. Yes, the nineties also saw savage wars and ethnic cleansing, such as in the former Yugoslavia, but it brought independence to states in the Soviet Union, it brought transparency, it saw a vastly expanded European Union, it brought a sense that anything was possible and that political developments would bring people ever closer. Twenty years later that sense has vanished, giving rise instead to anxiety and insecurity, especially on the European continent.

Read the full chapter here.