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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In Poland, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters, "I don't think this is a new cold war."Skip to next paragraph
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In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy warned of the risk of a "new cold war" days ago, but has not repeated the phrase. French foreign affairs analyst Daniel Vernet, writing in Le Monde, argues that Russia is acting more like "a czarist power" than a Soviet power – and says the phrase "cold war" is useful to Moscow, since it conceptually divides east and west Europe into old zones of influence in which each side can act with relative impunity.
"We are stuck in relationships in which major powers are not enemies, but not friends," says Mr. Hassner at the Center of International Studies and Research in Paris. "The UN isn't working. The new world order and the democracy surplus never came to be – but there are networks of capital and cooperation between Russia, China, and the West that weren't there before."
A new world, yes, but not cold war
To be sure, thinkers – diplomats, scholars, writers – say the Russian blitz into Georgia represents a new world, but what kind of new world is undefined.
Cold war certainties have given way to an international climate that is mixed up, unpredictable, contrary, and quite corrupt. Russia's action is creating "a new context of fear rippling through its border regions," says Goble, causing "effects we can't even understand yet."
In the post-cold-war world of 2008, there's no one overarching reality that provides an orienting stability. Russians again feel Moscow's power and authority, and are assured by it. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make NATO, the US, and Europe appear weak. In this world, "if you take one action, it can boomerang and harm something else," says Hassner. The "war on terror" isn't an adequate principle around which to center all focus, he adds.
Some East European analysts say Russia doesn't want to attack or allow hostile relations with the West à la cold war; Rather, Moscow's intent is to exploit the riches and technology of the West.
"Russia's strength is made possible by oil at $150 a barrel," says Bartosz Weglarczyk, foreign editor of influential Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. "If oil is cut to $60 a barrel, Russia is sunk. [Russians] spend less on research and development than Poland. They want bank accounts in the West, to make millionaires off sales to Europe. They don't want a big war. They want to gain influence and manipulate."
1947: Truman pledges US support to any country threatened by communism.
1948: The US and Britain airlift supplies into a Berlin blockaded by the USSR.
1950: Communist N. Korea invades S. Korea; the US enters the Korean War.
1961: Communist East Germany erects Berlin Wall to prevent travel westward.
1962 US spots Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. Kennedy orders a naval blockade. After tense negotiations, the Cuban missile crisis is defused.
1965: Vietnam War: The US enters the Vietnam War to prevent the spread of communist control to South Vietnam.
1979: The USSR invades Afghanistan. The US funds jihadists to drive them out. The Soviets leave in 1988.
1989: Berlin Wall falls.
1991: After a failed coup against Gorbachev by communist hard-liners, the USSR collapses.
Source: 'War Since 1945,' by Jeremy Black; CNN; 'The Cold War,' by John Lewis Gaddis. Compiled by Corinne Chronopoulos.