By Joshua D. Glawson | United States
With growing tensions in the world, falling economic markets, militaries expanding, a rise of the number of refugees, instability in the Middle East, European and EU frustrations, the US’ interventionist foreign policy, Russia’s unpredictable expansionist attitude, and now the bittering of US-Russia relations, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the world is entering a new Cold War. I will provide evidence for and against the idea that the US and Russia are entering such a predicament. It is my position that we are neither in a new Cold War nor the same Cold War, rather we are headed into the direction of an all-out world conflict.
The anxiety between Russia and the US have expedited since the Russian Federation annexed Crimea invading Ukraine in 2014. Already, there were accusations by the US prior to this invasion that Russia had been committing acts of cyber attacks around the world, which former US President Obama had addressed. Once Russia marched into Ukraine, the world was aware of the unpredictability of Russian President Putin and his expansionist foreign policy. Many scholars and writers have been maintaining a careful eye on the intensifying circumstances and have duly noted the evidence of US and Russian aggression.
As stated by US political scientist, Robert Legvold, the possible second Cold War began during the Ukraine crisis of 2013. While Andrew Kuchins, an American political scientist and Kremlinologist, believes the term of a “Cold War” is unsuited for the current conflict. Yet, Kuchins also believes it may actually be more dangerous than the first Cold War. From the Kremlin’s perspective, it is the US that first upended previous norms of communication and peace, when in 2002, former President George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was a Cold War treaty limiting possible nuclear warfare. Due to the lessening of treaties and agreements, it is perpetually leading US-Russia relations to an impasse. According to John Sawers, a former MI6 chief, believes the world is entering an era that was possibly more dangerous than the Cold War, as we do not have a focus on a strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington.
According to Dr. Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto, “The Cold War was an orderly competition; there were rules to the game. Now the rules aren’t there, and there is a lot more unpredictability. Russia is no longer a superpower, so in that way, it may not be worse,” Braun said. “Before, the countries had different and competing ideologies, and they wanted to expand those across the world, so there was also constant tension and a threat of nuclear war.” So, “In that sense, no, this is not the Cold War. But we should not dismiss it.”
In early April 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that relations between the two nations have never been worse than they are today. “The situation is worse compared to the classical Cold War since some sort of rules were in force at that time and some decency was in place.” On the other hand, according to Ivan Kurilla, a historian at the European University at St. Petersburg, Russia, “If you look for similarities with what is happening, it is not the Cold War that can explain events but Russia’s first revolutionary regime which regularly assassinated opponents abroad.” He went on to say that Russia’s President, Vladimir V. Putin, had no interest in spreading a new ideology and fomenting world revolution, unlike the early Bolsheviks, but that Russia under Mr. Putin had “become a revolutionary regime in terms of international relations.”
However, contradictory to Kurilla, in March of 2018, a former Russian spy was poisoned while in the UK, as apparently it was an attempted murder and the immediate accusations were pointing to Russia as the culprit. Russia fervently denied all allegations to the incident. Nevertheless, the international response was a devastating blow to Russian relations with not only the UK, but also the US, and the West in general. Immediate action was taken, President Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States that very month, adding to a growing cascade of similar actions taken by Western allies. Poland, Italy, Denmark, France, and Germany were among 14 EU member nations announcing plans to expel Russians from their respective countries in solidarity with Britain, which expelled 23 Russian diplomats after the poisoning. Canada also said it would expel 4. In addition, Poland and Germany stated that they, too, would expel some Russian diplomats.
Russia consistently adheres to the principle of reciprocity, and the Kremlin declared that it would assess the damage to its diplomat corps overseas and that Russia would respond with expulsions of Western diplomats. The Russian Parliament added with the deputy head of its foreign affairs committee, Aleksei Chepa, telling the Interfax news agency that Russia would not bow to the West’s diplomatic war tactics. Russia, Chepa said, “Will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be.”
An additional blow to Russia’s reputation and credibility, adding fuel to the tumultuous fire building between Russia and the US, twelve Russians have been indicted for supposedly hacking the Democratic Party’s servers and emails while also jeopardizing voter information in the US. For years, Russia has been accused of cyber attacks and cyber terrorism, and this has been one of the most significant of those accusations. Although after Trump met with Putin and they discussed the circumstances and situation of the hacking, Putin denied the allegations, and for now Trump has accepted his answer. Nevertheless, the trial against the twelve will carry on.
Although the evidence for a current Cold War is piling up, there are some key differences between the former Cold War and the escalating tensions currently straining US and Russian relations. One of those factor differences is that the Cold War consisted of the two world leading powers with significantly more polarity than the current state of being. The bipolar split between the US and former USSR was not only caused by the nuclear arms race but also in philosophical ideology as each felt their universal values were superior. The US was pressing for global Liberal Capitalism, while the USSR was pushing for Marxism-Leninism type Communism. True Capitalism focuses on the natural rights of the individual with a government protecting the negative rights of that individual. While the Marxism-Leninism form of Communism, on the other hand, attempts a top-level down approach of positive rights theory, claiming that elites can scientifically approach society for complete control with the greatest equal outcome for all.
With the arms race, innate philosophical differences, and both the USSR and the US expanding militarily while assisting other like-minded countries, the Cold War led to creating global bipolarity with proxy wars and spillover into other countries, and plenty of political blowback to boot. Although the current status of the world military climate is building into separate countries adhering to ideologies of nationalism, we do not see as great of a number of countries joining in opposition of one another based on ideological claims. The monster of Communism is not as overtly displayed in the world today. Rather, we are seeing hybrids of Communism in the form of Democratic Socialism and mixed economies utilizing both Capitalistic individualism and free trade, with Communistic welfare, regulations, and control. These ideologies are creating more conflict and polarization within countries rather than States in direct opposition and conflict. So, these are signs of contentions and escalating tensions, but not the same as the Cold War between the US and USSR.
Overall, the world is seeing a rise in expansionism and nationalism, while also conflicts are arising between countries. This does not mean that we are in a new Cold War or even a continuation of the first. Rather, this is evidence of escalating global conflict more likened to that of an actual World War than a Cold War. To prevent such a terrifying occurrence as WWIII, communication needs to be restored between countries, and expansionism needs to cease in order to not press other countries towards retaliation. Many fear the possibility of a political power vacuum if global control is voluntarily ended by the US; but, equally, the building of confrontational militaries and contentious communication will surely push for resentment and all-out war. Let us pursue communication, trade, and peace, with treaties and agreements, and see where that takes us instead.
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