In November of 1989, the Berlin Wall was pulled down, reuniting a German nation that had been divided since the end of World War II. Two years later, the Soviet Union, and the communism of eastern and central Europe, disintegrated. We clinked our glasses in celebration of the end of the Cold War, but the party may have been premature.

The Cold War, it turns out, never ended. It merely went into a Siberian hibernation, while the Soviet Union reinvented itself into the modern Russian state, replacing an aging Politiburo with a new class of brutal billionaire oligarchs, headed by former KGB spy Vladimir Putin.

Cold War 2.0 is upon us, and it isn’t an entirely cold conflict. In the last few years, Russia has invaded the Ukraine, sent jets and advisors into Syria to directly challenge the U.S., and begun to systematically undermine elections in Europe, and now in America, through hacking computers and spreading fake news.

What the Russians did in our last election is, regrettably, now caught up in partisan politics in Washington. But their actions have implications that go far deeper than the politics or the personalities of the moment. In this last election cycle, the Russians not only interfered with our internal affairs and the direction of the country, they’ve also widened our partisan divides by favoring one party over another.

But Russia’s role in our politics is hardly a partisan issue. Consider, for a moment, what could come next in this new cyber warfare. Russian hackers are working hard to figure out how to change vote tallies in selected systems, turn off elements of the nation’s power grid, shut down internet links between financial institutions and perhaps even paralyze some elements of the U.S. military and intelligence command structure.

Republicans and Democrats have always had their disagreements, but when it came to the Soviet threat, they stood shoulder to shoulder. In the past, it wouldn’t have mattered if the Russians helped one party over the other. Russian intervention would have generated national unity. That’s because we are first and foremost Americans, not Republicans or Democrats.

Now, in a reversal that must have Ronald Reagan turning in his grave, a Republican president is dismissing the warnings of all of the country’s intelligence agencies about Russian intervention, smearing the credibility of those agencies, and even accusing them of playing partisan politics.

This week, we learned that the FBI has been engaged in a major investigation, since last July, of Russian meddling in this last election. It is an investigation into both the extent of Russian involvement and whether there was any coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

No matter how much partisan Republicans may wish it, this is an issue that will not go away soon, if at all. RussiaGate is a dark cloud hanging over this administration, distracting and sapping their ability to lead. And given this past year’s Russian successes, it is likely to return as an issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

None of us know where this investigation by the FBI will lead. It may simply paint a picture of what happened and what needs to be done. Or it could lead to an Independent Prosecutor, and even a Watergate-style national crisis or impeachment.

Here’s what we do know, and it is sobering.

• Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has had close relationships with Russia for decades. He resigned last summer after documents showed that he had received $12.7 million dollars from Ukraine’s pro-Russian president. As recently as 2009, he was a paid lobbyist for a Russian interests in Washington.

• Trump adviser Roger Stone bragged about his connection to Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0, which is a code name associated with the Russian hacking team and intelligence agencies.

• Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned after it became known that he was once a paid adviser to Russian propaganda channel RT.

• Another Trump adviser, Carter Page, was investigated by the FBI in 2016 for his Russia ties and his ongoing and loud public defense of Russian foreign policy.

• Trump has added fuel to the fire by his admiration of Putin, dismissing the Ukraine intervention, praising the country’s approach in Syria and attacking U.S. intelligence agencies.

This is an issue that challenges us to act, together, as a nation. This isn’t about Trump, or which party wins and who loses. It isn’t even about politics. It’s about the future of America.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, is the principle of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” (2015) and “Reinventing Maine Government” (2010). He can be reached at: [email protected]

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