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تو تیر آزما ہم جِگر آزمائیں

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Another Cold War?

Russia and the U.S. seem destined to be moving towards another Cold War. The recent intractability of both Parties has brought back the old memories when former Soviet Union and the United States were locked in horn for a period of not less than 40 years in the last century. Robert Gates, the defense secretary of the U.S., said a few days back, "Russia has taken a U-turn and is heading towards Past now." And the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev replied in an unmistakable tone that Russia was not scared of another Cold War, although it did not want it. No doubt that the stand-off between the two countries is at highest point since the demise of the U.S.S.R. in 91, many aspects need to be considered before conveniently using 'New Cold War' for the recent rhetoric of Kremlin and White House. Many ask, did the cold war really end? Or is it just the same war now being fought with a changed global strategic balance and on new Eurasian fronts. No doubt the same trust deficit is there between the two parties but the world surely has changed since 91, and this Cold War, if it is that, will be fought differently than the previous one.The world was quick to announce the end of Cold War in 1991. Everyone was hailing 'New World Order' in the uni-polar world but little did they realize that the Cold War mentality had not changed. Although the economy of Moscow was in shambles yet it never ceased to be a strategic competitor of Washington. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved but NATO kept on growing and never disbanded itself. Many argues that the U.S. has always been wary of the Russians, and the Yanks had never let go of their isolationist policy towards the Russians. The pacified era of Boris Yeltson did not bear any sign of Cold War but the rise of national Vladmir Putin did mean that Russia was eager to regain its erstwhile strategic space. It was only a question of time as when would Moscow announce its revival on the world stage, which now has a different global strategic balance then what one observed in 1991.Analysts say that global strategic balance of power is shifting from unipolarity to multipolarity where many regional organizations have sprung up to assert in world politics. The global hegemony of the U.S. is over whelming but it is under strain and challenges in many regions. Gone are the days when the U.S could bestride on any continent of its choice with no one to challenge its authority except certain 'rogue' states. Washington's engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq seems to b e taking toll on its economy. China is no more the same as it was in 80's; its economic and military might has increased many fold in the recent years. Now there is a strategic alliance of the Chinese and the Russians to check the U.S. in its backyard. The center stage of the previous Cold War was central Europe, and now the recent Georgian conflict is termed as the first battle of the new Cold War.Georgia is a former Soviet Union country in the Caucasus region along with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Tiny Armenia, which borders Iran and Turkey, readily accepts Russian protection. It is Georgia, a vital region for the Wes, which is centre of attention these days. Pipelines through Georgia supply Europe with 1 million barrels of oil per day. Mr. Saakashvili, president of Georgia, is a pro-U.S. leader who has shown his ardour to join NATO on various occasions. The lobbying for NATO invites the wrath of the Russian; As Moscow sees NATO against the spirit of political understanding that took place between Gorbachec and George H.W. Bush. Georgia went to war with Russia recently over its break away provinces viz. South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Although the Western media did its best to paint Russia as a bully in its region, it remains undeniable that Georgia first attacked on the peace keeping Russian troops in the region. The result was inevitable; The mighty Red Army crushed the Georgian batallions and asserted its rule in the region. It was a clear signal for the West that Russia would not allow any U.S backed intervention in the region go unpunished. The U.S. vehemently supports Georgian stand and pushed the European world for sanctions on Russia. The Georgian conflict led to the build up of NATO ships in the Black Sea, and the heated harangue between the two parties followed. The situation had been restive in the Eastern Europe too prior to the Caucasus war.In the Eastern Europe, Polan and Ukraine are the major fronts in this new Cold War. Poland and Czech Republic recently signed a missile defense shield agreement with the U.S. Although the U.S maintains that the defense shield in these countries will be for rogue states like Iran yet Moscow hardly buys this and was left in fury over the agreement, and vowed that Poland will face nuclear strikes in regions in which it hosts the shield. These new threats from the Russians can not be discarded now as rhetoric especially when the shadow of the Georgian war still looms. Ukraine is the other country which is bone of contention. Moscow has not been on good terms with Kiev since 2004, their pro-democracy Orange Revolution which saw a U.S backed candidate Viktor Yushchenko coming in power. Ukraine was also involved recently in a spat of words with Russia over a Ukrainian Black Sea por, Sebastopol, which was leased to Russia till 2017 by the previous government. The population of Ukraine is sharply divided between the U.S and Russia for their support. 17% people of Ukraine are Russians and Moscow takes special interest in their politics; while U.S is eager to bring Ukraine on the tables of NATO. While Russia struggles to grow its influence in the Eastern Europe, the situation is not that desperate for her in Central Asia.The Central Asian states, viz. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, are currently wedged between Russian and China. Several are resource rich and endure varying levels of autocratic rule. The U.S faces difficulty in this region, for this is the area of Shanghai Corporation Organization (SCO). Washington applied for membership of the energy club (read SCO) but was bluntly refused in 2005. In 2005 Uzbekistan had to tell U.S to scrap American bases from its region owing to the growing pressure of the Russians and the Chinese. Stakes are high in this region, as this is the area termed as 'heartland' by Mackinder. Although the U.S. found it easy last time to grab the support of the Western Europe against the communist ideology, it would not be a walk in the park this time.The U.S is in Atlantic alliance (named NATO) with the Western Europe. This time NATO seems divided on how to deal with the Russians. This was evident in the last meeting when Germany vetoed against the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine in NATO. France is also hesitant in calling the Georgian war its own war as White House wishes. The reasons behind this reluctance are not difficult to interpret. The West Europe does not feel threatened by the communism as they earlier used to. A quarter of oil and gas of Europe is provided by Russia with Germany and italy its biggest gas consumers. They do not want to be a part of this scepticism game that Russia and the U.S play.Trust deficit and scepticism is all time high as it was in the previous Cold War. Russian prime minister Vladmir Putin recently came on CNN and alleged that the whole Georgian conflict was orchestrated by the U.S to benefit one of its presidential candidate. He was pointing towards John McCain, the Republican candidate, who has often relied on his anti-Moscow rhetoric in his campaign. McCain has often called for the ouster of Russia from G8 and WTO. On the other hand, the U.S alleges that Russia is still living in the Past and has not gotten rid Cold War mind set. Both party accuses each other of continuing the Cold War. When one compares the previous Cold War with this new one, he will find many disparities.The New Cold War is different than the previous one in a sense that it is not an ideological war.. It is a war of strategic space with both super powers asserting themselves. While the U.S enjoyed global hegemony for 18 years, this time it is being checked by the Russia in its backyard. Many people would like to compare the recent Georgian war with the Soviet invasion CzechSlovakia in 1968. Sergey Lavrov writes in Newsweek, "Those who long for Cold War may wish to compare Russia's defense of its peace keepers and innocent civilians to the Soviet aggression of last century." Russia might not be ready now to check the U.S in all areas as it did in Vietnam and Korea, but the Russians' strategic might is sharply increasing thanks to the rising oil prices. There remains no doubt that this new Cold War will be fought differently.Both countries never let go of the Cold War mind set and they have only chosen new war fronts for their battle. The world has changed since 1991, as many new colossal entities like SCO and EU have emerged. The goergian war showed: no matter how much you turn to Europe but you can not run from your geography. There is a hint in it for countries like Ukraine. Moreover, the Europe is not ready to repeat the history by isolating Russia again. Whatever the results of this Cold War may be, this remains beyond doubt that a tussle between two super powers will harm the global interests, and the world's fight against terrorism, poverty and other menaces will be jeopardized.

I would like to thank the author of this article Mr. Husham Ahmad Cheema for permitting me to publish his work on my blog

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