While some in Congress have warned that Russian involvement in Ukraine portends a "looming" new cold war, Obama administration officials have for the most part brushed off the comparison. The president himself flatly said in July in response to a reporter's question regarding the Ukrainian situation, "No, it’s not a new Cold War." But in Germany for a remembrance of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry seemed less sanguine about the current state of relations with Russia. While he did say that "we are very hopeful that we can avoid" a new Cold War, he left the door open to the possibility [emphasis added]:
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I wondered if I could ask: You’re here 25 years after the Berlin Wall came down. How confident are you that you can avoid a new Cold War growing over Ukraine? What are the prospects at the moment for the talks there?
KERRY: ...On the subject of the Cold War, Frank and I talked about that last night and we actually talked about it with the kids this morning right over here by the wall. One of the kids asked us, “Do you think we’re going to be heading towards another Cold War?” And the question itself, frankly, is a question I wish I didn’t have to hear. None of us want another generation growing up with the foreboding sense of a Cold War. None of us want to see another generation see the resources and the efforts of nations diverted from building governments and societies and providing opportunity, and diverted into the mutual action and reaction that comes with a Cold War.
So we are very, very hopeful – and that is why Germany and the United States and others have been engaged in such robust diplomacy – we are very hopeful that we can avoid that. And it’s certainly our primary mission to try to do so.
As mentioned above, when directly asked about a new Cold War back in July, President Obama was unequivocal in his response:
Q Is this a new Cold War, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s not a new Cold War. What it is, is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path.
Earlier in the conflict as sanctions against Russia were being weighed, the president brought up the subject himself in remarks in a March press conference during a visit to Rome, saying that "we’re not looking at a possible return to the Cold War" with Russia:
None of [the snactions], to have a powerful impact on Russia, are going to have zero impact on us, because Russia is part of the world economy. This is part of the reason why I said yesterday we’re not looking at a possible return to the Cold War. The economies have changed, the politics have changed. Russia is not leading an ideological bloc that’s opposed to the world economy.
The prior remarks the president referred to were made to a gathering of European Youth in Belgium on the day preceding his words in Rome [emphasis added]:
[T]he United States and our allies will continue to support the government of Ukraine as they chart a democratic course. Together, we are going to provide a significant package of assistance that can help stabilize the Ukrainian economy, and meet the basic needs of the people. Make no mistake: Neither the United States, nor Europe has any interest in controlling Ukraine. We have sent no troops there. What we want is for the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions, just like other free people around the world.