Lots in the news this week about Russia and its intentions regarding Ukraine. A Russian convoy crossed into Ukraine and caused understandable alarm in many circles. As of this writing portions of the convoy appear to have left and are on their way back to the motherland. Once again, the specter of a renewal of the Cold War is thrown around, some self-proclaimed experts going so far as to declare the new Cold War an established fact. For those of us who write fictionalized accounts of the Cold War, these developments are quite a welcome turnaround from the bleak outlook we faced twenty years ago.
In the 1990s, many regarded any continued focus on Russia and Russians in the world of action fiction, both print and film, as being at best dated, and at worst wholly unimaginative. There was much talk of the need for a new paradigmatic villain. Some latched onto the architects of apartheid, white South Africans, others relied on the generic South American drug lord, and still others ventured into the Mideast looking for a new "go to" archetypal bad guy for popular consumption. The Cold War was over, the Soviet bogeyman was dead and buried, and any writer stuck in the Cold War past was going to find himself relegated, as the era was, to the ash heap of cultural history. Then came Putin!
Whatever else you can say about the guy, and more than enough has already been said, we who think and write about the Cold War owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. His clumsy adventurism and boorish posturing have resurrected the international anxiety of an era marked by the threat of thermonuclear annihilation. What a guy! The resultant renewed interest in the old East/West geopolitical struggle has been an immeasurable boon to anyone with a laptop, a more than passing familiarity with the history of that struggle, and an eye for a good story. Just when you think events elsewhere (Syria, Gaza, Ferguson, etc.) will eclipse the Russian penchant for headline-grabbing intrigue, Putin rushes in to the rescue, running bit players from the field, and once again breathing new life into old cataclysmic fears. If I didn't know better, I'd think Putin was secretly the head of a P.R. firm that represents novelists, screenwriters, and academicians who are stuck in the glorious past of the Cold War.
Once Putin leaves the world stage, either by choice or, as is often the case in Russia, at the forceful invitation of a few of his countrymen, the consuming public will likely once again tire of the Cold War. Until then, I, for one, plan to keep on cranking out the Cold War stories - three novels and two screenplays to date and more on the way! I suspect others who share my fascination are working on the same premise and at the same pace. All I can say is, "Spasibo, Vladimir Vladimirovich!"