A Whiff of a New Cold War

As relations between Russia and the United States have been heating up in the last several weeks, NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr wonders whether it may not be the start of a new mini-Cold War.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Relations between Russia and the United States have become strained in the past several weeks. NPR senior news analysts Daniel Schorr wonders whether this is the beginning of a new mini-Cold War.

DANIEL SCHORR: The timing was interesting. Just as Vladimir Putin was ceremoniously installing his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev as president and himself as prime minister, it became known that the Russian government had ordered the expulsion of three American diplomats and military attaches and that two Russian diplomats in the United States had also been expelled.

The tit-for-tat expulsion started last November and it was not clear in what order that it happened, why they happened or why the news had been withheld by both governments for so long. One senses a whiff of the Cold War, and one of its favorite instruments, PNG - persona non-grata - or person not welcome.

Let me mention in passing that in 1957, as a CBS correspondent in Moscow, I was labeled persona non-grata for having violated Soviet censorship rules by attempting to broadcast forbidden information. The diplomats PNGed in those days were usually accused of espionage, a charge broad enough to include an innocent conversation with a Russian on the street.

And tit-for-tat was the name of the game - one Russian expelled for every American expelled. The Russian government has also been conducted a miniature Cold War with Britain. Last year the British government sought the extradition of former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoy, accused of the radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a Kremlin critic. Russia refused to extradite Lugovoy, and in retaliation, the British government's suspended operations of these two officers, a foreign ministry spokesman said, the British side has finally done what had to be done a long time ago.

This all has a little chill about it. It is as though the Putin/Medvedev regime, flushed with oil, has decided to assert itself and command a little respect from the Western world.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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