The idea that the world faces a second Cold War started out as hyperbole, but by 2016 it was sounding increasingly plausible. For more than a decade, Moscow, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, had been waging a diplomatic, political, and military campaign to restore Russian power – in the Caucasus, in Ukraine, and in Syria. In the West this has usually been portrayed as unprovoked aggression, but Tony Kevin takes the opposing view. It is the West, he argues, which has behaved aggressively towards Moscow.
Kevin is a former Australian diplomat, regarded in Canberra policy circles as an ‘old lefty’. And not only does the argument of Return to Moscow recall those made by the left during the first Cold War, it is based on questions still open at the end of that conflict, crucially this one: was Moscow promised that NATO would not expand into eastern Europe?
If you believe that Putin’s behavior demands a robust Western response backed by military force, your answer to that question is ‘no’, or perhaps ‘that’s irrelevant’. But if you are Putin – or Tony Kevin – the answer is ‘yes’ and, rather than being some arcane historical detail, the issue determines your entire outlook. This is the sort of disagreement that starts European wars.