Cold War returns with a vengeance in Washington

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The political equivalent of the Polar Vortex has arrived in Washington. The Cold War has returned with a vengeance, judging by the mood here.

In Congress, politicians are talking of extensive sanctions against Russia and of offering military support to Kiev. Giving Ukraine immediate membership of NATO is one of the more radical ideas being floated.

President Obama is trying to ease the tension between Ukraine and Russia. Credit: Reuters

Read: Obama says 'resolve of US and allies will remain firm'

Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and John McCain have all tried - absurdly, given the historical and geographical context - to draw comparisons between Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler.

No one has paused to think about how to sell to the American people the idea of fighting in the streets of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk, cities they have never heard of.

A uniformed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard near a Ukrainian military base. Credit: Reuters

President Obama is trying to calm the mood. Today he spoke of "de-escalation" and of allowing Russian troops to remain in their bases in Crimea.

But he also described the planned referendum in Crimea as unlawful. The White House is trying to balance a show of resolve with the reality that there has to be a diplomatic solution.

Read: International community condemns 'illegal' Crimean referendum