ოთხშაბათი, ივლისი 24, 2024
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Nodar Pkhaladze: "The Shadow of the Past, or the War That Never Ended: The Second Cold War"

The Shadow of the Past, or the War That Never Ended: The Second Cold WarThe 2014 Russian aggression towards Ukraine has created major concern in the Western society. Since then the officials and experts have been debating on yet another relationship deteriorations between the West and Russia, trying to draw parallels from the history and possibly explain the Russian goals. Most frequently the parallels are made with the situation during the Cold War. Through progress of time, there emerges the fear that the new Cold War is escalating, if it had ever finished. There are different concept views on this subject: some think of the current events as the 'New Cold War' or 'Cold War II', while the others claim that the Original Cold War had never ended and the present tensions are another phase of it. Of course, it also means that there are people who oppose idea theXXI century Cold War in any form. The primary indicators, that prove the existence of serious tensions between the West and Russia, are expressed in the following key characteristics: the concepts of the "Russian World" and "Sovereign Democracy"— both of which indicate the ideological contradiction between the factions; the idea of the Eurasian Union, as an economic aspect; spheres of influence expressed by "Policy of Privileged Interests"; and military forces as instrument of spreading influence in neighbouring countries.

In order to understand the reason behind the fears of the New Cold War, it is necessary to look at the timeline of certain political events.It must be noted that there are several views on the 'declaration' of the New Cold War. The most widely-spread assumption states that the conflict in Crimea is the starting point, however, should the events before 2014 be carefully observed, then it becomes obvious that the'sparks of tension' had started even earlier. Those were the following factors: August War of 2008 between Georgia and Russia;Russian President's Vladimir Putin's speech during the 2007 Munich Security Conference; and the 2004 NATO enlargement. From all the mentioned cases it is Vladimir Putin's speech regarding the issues of global security that is possible to presume as the 'declaration' of the New Cold War.In his speech he stated the following:" NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust". He then proceeds to accuse the NATO in being the one building the next "Belin Wall", as well astrying to substitute the UN with the NATO and the EU as a global security organization. Putin's whole speech itself questions mission of the NATO since the disbandment of the Warsaw Pact, pointing that it is the West that wishes to re-create the Cold War era tension with the Russian Federation.

First of all, there is a clear ideological clash that exists in present timeline, which has a clear indicating factor in form of the "sovereign democracy" idea. This terms was coined by the deputy chief of staff of the President of Russia, VladislavSurkov. In his 2006 press conference he divided the democracy into two categories: the "managed democracy" and the "sovereign democracy". By democracy, Surkov means not western democracy with its 'artificial checks and balances', but something much more like 'independence', which in context means being able to act according to its interests and not being questioned by the West or countries of the Great 8. The interesting part is his way of describing the 'managed democracy' as a "model of ineffective economic and political regimes managed from the outside and tied to certain centres of global influence,". Although he said he would not mention which countries he considered to be falling in this category, he did say that the answer was obvious, thus indirectly pointing towards the US. To sum up, Surkov'sversion of Russian democracy fitsperfectly with one of the main themes of Putin's time in power which is: protecting the Russia's and Russian national interests from the 'foreign interference'. This part directly echoes the original historical Russian fear of insecurity, the constant paranoia of peril from the outer world that was present all the time, whether it was the Czarist Russia, the Russian Empire or the USSR. But this is not the only ideology that is concerning.

The other ideological concept that exists in the modern-day Russia is the idea of the "Russian World" (РусскийМир). The main cornerstone of this idea is that the people "who speak Russian in their everyday life also think Russian, and as the result, they act Russian". Despite the name of the idea sounding nationalistic, the members of this association are actually transnational and transcontinental, which implies that the potential members of this organization can be any person depending on their affiliation to the particular language, religion, and cultural community. According to Putin, the members of this association are obliged to "help their motherland in its constructive dialogue with foreign partners", which means accomplishing many goals that will help to shape the foreign perspective of the Russian Federation. One of the main goals of this organization is to spread and popularize the Russian language and culture, as well as defend and promote Russian interests abroad. Another important aim is to assist Russia's economic relations with other countries.

The important part of this goal is to not only focus on Russian citizens in foreign countries, but also on citizens of other countries whose "loyalty is to be won". Those ideas eventually materialized into the "Russkiy Mir Foundation"(trans. Russian World Foundation). It is noteworthy to mention that all the program board members of the foundation have strong ties with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Russian presidential aide and speechwriter DjokhanPoliyeva, additionally all members are directly appointed by the Russian president himself, according to the foundation's regulations. But ideology is not the only factor.

On January 1st 2015, a treaty for establishing the Eurasian Trade Union came into force.Having currently 5 members (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia), the organization operates as a political-economical union in the Eurasian region. It is possible to assume it as an EU counterpart and alternative, which definitely brings the subject of spheres of influence back. Russian President Putin stated that "he wants all former Soviet republics, except the Baltic states, which are EU members, to join his customs bloc". When in 2013 several countries were offered to sign the DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement) document with Europe, some of them 'suddenly' changed their mind and decided to join the Eurasian Union. One of them was Ukraine during V. Yanukovych's last presidential year and the second one being the Armenian government that literally changed its decision in the 'last moment'. It is obvious that the events were orchestrated from the Russian side, as the Armenian president flew to Moscow to meet the Russian president, after which he announced the change in decision, while the EU was expecting different outcome.

As for the Ukraine's case, it is possible to judge from the events: after the Ukrainian people removed President Yanukovych's because of his decision, the country faced another crisis in form of the Russian annexation of Crimea. Even though Ukraine eventually signed the agreement alongside Georgia and Moldova, the de-facto governments of Transnistria (in Moldova), Donetsk and Lugansk (in Ukraine), and Tskhinvali Region and Abkhazia (in Georgia) decided to integrate into the Eurasian Economic Union.

The third aspect of this new tension is the "Policy of Privileged Interests". During his speech at the Munich conferencePutin mentions that since the collapse of the USSR, the world has slowly turned into a "unipolar" model dominated by one sphere of influence (pointing towards the US), which, according to him, would only bring damage to the international community. He concludes that the best solution would be to create a multipolar model of influence, thus stabilizing spheres of influence. He then proceeds to propose his own version of the global security plan adding that in order for it to function and bring peace there must be a constant balance of power. Exactly one year later, the Russian president at that time, Dmitri Medvedev, presented 5 principals, that would become cornerstones of the Russian policy: 1) International Rights; 2)World must not be 'unipolar'; 3) Russia doesn't wish to have a confrontation with any country; 4) Protection of lives and interests of the Russian people "wherever they are"; 5) Intensive "work" with the friendly countries. By looking at those points it is clear that Russia once again emphasizes the idea of 'multipolar' world, which means division of world into the spheres of influence, eventually creating the situation similar to the second half of the XX century. The second part, which again mentions the idea of protecting the interests of Russia and Russian people within and outside its borders, directly means intensive 'work' on increasing the Russian influence in countries abroad.

The final and the most crucial point is the use of military force. The reason why the Russian aggression in both Georgia and Ukraine are so important, is the pattern of events. The 2008 August War was the conflict where Russia directly intervened into another sovereign country,Georgia, because of the fact that Russia could not deal with the fact that it could 'lose' a country in the region to the West, not to mention the 'potential threat' of Georgia becoming the member of the NATO. It is also worth noting that, at the time of attack, Georgia was still the member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a union created in the region after the collapse of the USSR, which was an economic union with one of the rules prohibiting intervention into another member's territory. After the end of the war, exactly one year after, the Russian Legislative Branch (State Duma), passed a law of using Russian military power outside its borders, for the sole purpose of protecting the country from the possible attack, as well as, protecting the Russian citizens outside the country's borders. Naturally there will be a group of people saying that there is nothing special in the law, as even the US has the similar law. The problem is that through this seemingly harmless law, Russia is given the power to intervene in other countries to 'protect the rights of the Russian-speaking population', people who (as mentioned in earlier paragraphs) automatically become the members of the Russian World. And as a result, not only did Russia intervene in Ukraine with the purpose of 'protecting the Crimean Tatars from the oppression', but it also decided to annex the whole region, which had not happened in history after the Cold War. All this situation indeed looks suspiciously similar to the Cold War, if it is not actually worse.

As mentioned earlier, there are many who believe that the viewing current situations as a 'New Cold War', is a misunderstanding of modern Russia which creates ultimate illusion that Putin wishes to bring back the USSR and ultimately prevents people from sane thought and analysis. Not only according to them is the situation different from the point of tension scale (meaning that modern Russia is a mere shadow of the USSR), but also highlighting the technical differences. It is said that unlike the Cold War, there are direct dialogues, agreements between the NATO and Russia. The second argument implies that the threat from Russia is not as disturbing nowadays as back in 60s, proving that there is no crisis that would bring the threat of nuclear war, as both sides understand the destructive capabilities of it. They also add that the Russian economy is much weaker and dependant on the West, stating that further use of its aggression will bring more harm to Russia itself: "Coupled with declining demographics, a significant alcohol and drug problem, falling life expectancy, an economy dependent on commodities, and a lack of transparent democracy, Russia has a handful of difficult challenges". The final argument of those opposing the 'New Cold War' concept, is claim that nowadays there is no ideological gap, (which was the key characteristic of the Cold War) but rather the new case of Balance of Power. The argument is firmed by the fact that there is no ideological link between the former communist allies, focusing on China-Russian relations as well as the fact that both of them openly condemned the North Korean government, when the latter started conducting nuclear missile tests and openly threatened to "reduce both US and South Korea to flames and ash". The fact that both of North Korea's partner countries turned against it clearly shows that the nowadays Russia is clearly not willing to have a nuclear conflict because of an ally. Although all the shown examples state that there is no such a thing as a New Cold War occurring, the earlier presented characteristics speak otherwise.

All the mentioned arguments indicate that the Old Cold War had truly ended. It is the New Cold War that is present in the international arena. Even though the examples look similar, the ideology is different and the methods have evolved into a new stage. Today there is no longer present the clash of socialistic and capitalist worlds, which is proven by the economic and ideological factors. Instead, what the world is facing nowadays is the clash of "Russian World" and Western Values. As a matter of fact, it is more accurate to say that the present conflicts are all parts of a New Cold War. Despite that, there is a still a question that is highly debatable: whether or not nowadays' situation is as hazardous as during the Original Cold War.

By providing the necessary arguments and analysing different political events, it is certain to say that indeed the Old Cold War had ended. Even though time has passed, it seems that the history is indeed repeating itself. The processes point to the new division of spheres of influence that had already started. All the above-mentioned factors: Ideology, Economics, Spheres of Influence and Armed Forces are still present nowadays and each have a vital contribution in the development of this conflict. Despite the fact that the Original Cold War was highly dangerous, exclusively when it reached the risk of the Nuclear War, the New Cold War is still very formidable. The old one was the post-conflict reality, which had created certain form of order. The new one, on the other hand, is accompanied by the military conflicts on European continent such as: Georgia and Ukraine, which itself points that the shaping of the new world order has not ended.

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