In the wake of a New Cold War (Part I)

06/11/2014


The term "Cold War" has been resurrected in recent months as the conflict in Ukraine has ebbed and flowed. A cease-fire agreement has stilled full-scale fighting for now, but the peace is fragile and the conflict far from settled.
The New Cold War
The Second Cold War, also known as Cold War II or the New Cold War, is a term used for the renewed ongoing tensions, hostilities, and rivalry between the European Union, led by the Commission and the Council, and the United States led by Barack Obama against the Russian Federation led by Vladimir Putin.
Although not strictly the beginning of the crisis, use of the term "Cold War II" and speculation over its appropriateness grew as tensions between Russia and the West escalated through the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the Russian involvement in the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, an action for which pro-Russian separatists were held responsible. By August 2014, both sides had implemented economic, financial, and diplomatic sanctions upon each other. Russia is temporarily suspended from the G8 following their annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March.[9] As such, the G8 summit originally planned to take place in Sochi, Russia earlier in June was cancelled; instead, an alternative G7 summit was held in Brussels, Belgium, courtesy of the European Union.
Wars related to the Cold War II include the Syrian Civil War (2011–present), and 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine (2014–present), also includes the War In Donbass & the 2014 Crimean Crisis.
However, no one should casually label the current confrontation between Russia and the West a “new Cold War.” After all, the current crisis hardly matches the depth and scale of the contest that dominated the international system in the second half of the twentieth century. And accepting the premise that Russia and the West are locked in such a conflict could lead policymakers to pursue the wrong, even dangerous strategies. Using such a label is thus a serious matter.
As fighting in Ukraine appears to intensify and separatists conduct a referendum on independence, observers in the United States, Europe, Russia and elsewhere are increasingly thinking and talking about a second Cold War between America and Russia. But would such a confrontation truly be a second Cold War or would it in fact be something else entirely? These five key differences suggest that if there is a prolonged struggle between Washington and Moscow, it may not work in the ways that many seem to expect.
First, the United States and Russia are not equals: Russia is no longer anything like a superpower peer of the United States. America’s economy is eight times Russia’s and the same is true of the European Union’s total economy, making a combined sixteen-to-one ratio. The U.S. defense budget is seven times Russia’s. Moreover, notwithstanding some erosion, the United States is in a stronger position internationally that it was during much of the Cold War, retains a significant technological and soft-power edge over Russia, and has expanding energy resources too. Russia’s economy has fallen into recession and is facing accelerated capital flight; Russia simply cannot sustain a long-term confrontation with the West in the way that the Soviet Union did. A new Cold War would not be a seventy-year endeavor.
Some might assume that the new Cold War, although undesirable, won’t matter nearly as much as the last one did, especially since modern Russia presents a mere shadow of the threat once posed by the Soviet Union. It is true, of course, that the United States enjoys massive material advantages over its adversary: its economy is around eight times as large as Russia’s, and its military budget is seven times as large. Moreover, the magnitude of the other challenges Washington faces, from turbulence in the Middle East to rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific, might make a collapse of Russia’s relations with the United States and most of Europe seem relatively unimportant.
The new Cold War with the United States and Europe will hurt Russia even more, especially because Moscow is much more dependent on the West than vice versa, in at least one critical respect. To diversify its resource-dependent economy and modernize its aging, Soviet-era infrastructure, Russia has counted on an inflow of Western capital and technology. To the degree that this option is lost, Moscow will be forced to become vastly more dependent either on its relationship with Beijing -- in which it is a distinctly junior partner -- or on scattered partnerships with countries that do not offer anything resembling the resources of the United States and Europe.
Second, Globalization and technology empower spoilers: Many have described how the modern interconnected world empowers individuals for good and ill. A more accurate assessment might be that globalization and technology empower the weak (in relative terms), whether individuals, organizations, or governments. Incorporating the sad and permanent reality that it almost invariably takes many to build but only one to destroy, Russia’s capability to utilize modern technologies like cyber-attacks toward disruptive ends could help Moscow to level the playing field with America and Europe. Science fiction fans will recall Paul-Muad’dib’s statement in Dune that “the power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it”—and observers of Russia’s foreign policy will recognize echoes of this mindset in Moscow’s conduct.
Third, Cold War 1 developed rules, Cold War 2 has none: By the time the Cold War ended, the United States and the Soviet Union had constructed an elaborate system of rules and signals to regulate their competition and mitigate risks. All of this is now gone—in fact, few remember its existence, much less its operation. If the United States and Russia enter a new Cold War, it will reset to 1945, not 1985. This means a new iterative trial-and-error process to define the rules—this time, starting with thousands of nuclear warheads, cyber-weapons, precision munitions and drones. And don’t forget sanctions, energy dependence, and angry Russian minorities in neighboring states. With global 24-hour television and the Internet, this mess will play out in real time. Governments on both sides will struggle to shape messages and manage public opinion in an environment totally unlike that of decades ago. This could produce powerful domestic pressures well beyond what early Cold War leaders had to handle.
Four, Geopolitics will be different: The Cold War was a period of bi-polar competition between the United States and the Soviet Union during which it was difficult for many to avoid taking sides. The United States amassed important second-tier allies and partners—Europe, Japan and eventually even China, when Richard Nixon successfully split Beijing from Moscow. Any new effort and containment and confrontation with Russia will run up against some unpleasant geopolitical realities in China, Europe and elsewhere.
With respect to Beijing, too many have over-interpreted China’s lack of vocal support for Moscow as a lack of practical support. If Chinese firms sign massive gas deals with Gazprom and Novatek, as looks quite likely to happen when Putin visits Beijing later this month, the absence of Chinese Foreign Ministry statements backing up Moscow’s annexation of Crimea will not matter too much—and Washington will have few options in expressing displeasure that don’t make things worse. If a new Cold War starts, it will be the pre-Nixon version, not the post-Nixon one, with the difference that China has reversed roles with the Soviet Union, is closing in on the United States economically and militarily, and is globally connected in ways the Soviet Politburo could never imagine.
Regarding Europe, the EU is finding itself unpleasantly trapped by the partial success of Western policies to integrate Russia that have produced deep economic connections between Europe and Russia without doing the same for the United States and Russia and without any real political convergence. As a result, Europe is divided between big economies (mostly to the west) that see economic dangers more than immediate security risks and smaller economies (mostly to the east) with a much greater sense of urgency. And however much Europeans’ hearts will be with Washington’s harder line, many of their minds will have second thoughts to a degree perhaps unprecedented during the Cold War.
Fifth, Nuclear weapons may play a different role: Mutual assured destruction prevented direct military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Whether it will work equally effectively in a future contest between Washington and Moscow is less clear. Nuclear deterrence is fundamentally subjective and psychological and depends upon credible threats to use nuclear weapons in response to conventional or nuclear attacks. The United States deterred a Soviet invasion through Germany’s Fulda Gap—despite Soviet conventional military superiority—because Soviet commanders believed that Washington might actually use tactical nuclear weapons to slow or stop a breakthrough. Bluntly put, the question today is whether Putin (who may be around for some time) believes that Obama (or his successor) would do the same in the Baltic States or elsewhere in Europe. Together with Moscow’s huge advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, the wrong answer to this question might persuade Russian leaders that they can attack weak NATO members with relative impunity. This could have very dire consequences. (To be continued)
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All comments [ 10 ]


Hùng Quân 6/11/14 19:43

The Cold War II include the Syrian Civil War (2011–present), and 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine (2014–present) and others hot places.

Huy Quốc 6/11/14 19:51

I think this new Cold war will be different from the old one because the balance of strength between the U.S. and Russia has changed as well as the emerge of a giant but dirty power - China!

Quân Hoàng 6/11/14 19:54

Russia will use their weapons - oil to retaliate.

Lê Tín 6/11/14 19:58

Governments on both sides will struggle to shape messages and manage public opinion in an environment totally unlike that of decades ago.

Phạm Hiếu 6/11/14 20:23

Let the U.S. know thier limit, that they can't do what they want in the world.

Quốc Cường 6/11/14 20:24

Russia simply cannot sustain a long-term confrontation with the West in the way that the Soviet Union did.

Hoàng Lân 6/11/14 20:26

Russia’s capability to utilize modern technologies like cyber-attacks toward disruptive ends could help Moscow to level the playing field with America and Europe.

Huy Lâm 6/11/14 20:29

The winter is now coming, and soon, the EU and U.S. will feel the strength of Putin, and that's also when this cold war ends.

Vân Nhàn 6/11/14 20:30

Accepting the premise that Russia and the West are locked in such a conflict could lead policymakers to pursue the wrong, even dangerous strategies.

Quốc Kiên 6/11/14 20:33

Hope this new cold war will not have anything to do with Vietnam, we have enough with China and still a lot of things to do: economic development, poverty and territorial disputes.

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