Why Georgia is not start of 'Cold War II'
Despite tensions over missile deals and NATO expansion, the West's ties with Russia are far more nuanced than in Soviet days.
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Meanwhile, Moscow's intent in Georgia remains unclear. Russian troops on the ground have contradicted official promises; Russian authorities have avidly reinterpreted a French-brokered cease-fire. It remains unclear whether troops will withdraw into South Ossetia, or create their own unbrokered security zone in a swath of Georgia outside Ossetia. Moscow first said its troops would pull out, then said troops would only pull back. All the while, Russian forces have moved freely on Georgian territory and taken control of several cities. The delay is widely seen as a bid to dramatize the West's inability to deter. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called the delay an opportunity for Moscow to "laugh at" the West.Skip to next paragraph
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Russian military authority remains split between a president elected in May with no opposition, and Prime Minister Putin, who once called the breakup of the Soviet Union "the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century."
Such remarks may feed new definitions of a "cold war," as does Putin's putative intent to exert power and influence in weaker states around Russia – particularly any Eurasian oil corridors through Georgia that would deny lucrative tariffs for Moscow.
1950s vs. 2008: Radio vs. iPod
Yet world dynamics in the cold war versus those in 2008 are as different as the transistor radio and the iPod. The interlinked economies of Russia and Europe, vastly freer global media access, the rise of China, greater travel, new generations, disparate wealth, and changed attitudes and expectations – make a different world than during the rigid standoff between the liberal West and communist Soviets. Russia is no longer a self-contained empire animated by the discipline of socialist morality – far from it, and the West is no longer focused on a single opponent. Issues without borders, such as energy, the environment, terror, trade, banking, and mafias – emerged more strongly after the Berlin Wall went down. The West needs Russia's help to constrain Iran.
"The Russian Federation and the United States are not about to enter a new cold war even if tensions between Moscow and Washington rise dramatically," says Mr. Goble. "The cold war pitted an ideologically driven Soviet Union against the free world, a conflict [where] both sides ... devoted enormous resources to defeat the other."
"References to the cold war now are ... unhelpful ...," he adds, "an ideologically driven notion that the only possible choices these two countries have for relations are total conflict or total agreement, neither of which is possible or desirable."