The Perfect Storm

In both the renewal of a “Cold War Context” in recent days as well as the initial ‘Cold War’ which began close to the midpoint of the 20th century, the origins of what is now seemingly a perpetual and persistent conflict between Russia and the West stem from “post-war upheaval” in Eurasia. Whereas the initial ‘Cold War’ stemmed from the economic and social upheaval resulting from World War II, the renewal of a ‘Cold War Context’ in recent days has resulted from an upheaval in Eurasia stemming from America’s hegemonic wars and ‘wars of choice’ in the 21st century.

And in both of the aforementioned cases, the “relative power” of Russia grew vis-à-vis its European neighbors, thus the expansion of Russian political and economic activity across Afro-Eurasia. There is also the potential that the internal affairs of virtually every country will intertwine with a renewal of a “Cold War Context” in 21st century international affairs, as was the case in the initial Cold War of the 20th century. Also, Western racism was a driver for people around the world to cast their lot with the Soviet Union in the 20th century, and the same scenario may apply this time around.

Another parallel between the initial Cold War of the 20th century and the renewal of a ‘Cold War Context’ in the 21st century are the five key economic and social developments which have shaped the international system in both cases. David S. Painter and Melvyn Leffler suggested that the five major economic and social developments are:

  1. Major power rivalry
  2. Changes in the technology of warfare
  3. Transnational conflict, which was ideological the first time around and is now cultural, nationalistic, and perhaps even religious in nature
  4. Reform and reconstruction of capitalism
  5. Nationalist or populist movements around the world

Also, whereas Washington sought global hegemony through military means in the 21st century, Russian hegemony relies on a political and economic strategy, according to Leffler. In turn, the “perfect storm” which would enable Russian hegemony without any military exertion are anti-colonial sentiments in the Third World as well as Arab resentment towards a Jewish state and the displacement of Palestinians. And in a ‘Cold War Context,’ it follows that “the survival of liberal ideals and capitalist institutions [is] anything but assured.” One of the reasons why liberalism and capitalism enter into a state of jeopardy in a ‘Cold War Context’ is because these institutions favor the few rather than the many.

Given that military hegemony was never in the cards for Russian strategy, many Western defense officials were perhaps wondering what Russia would perceive as a big enough threat to wage war, according to Leffler. The answer, as it appears, is Ukraine. Bringing Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe into the “European Family” and enabling economic and social progress for Eastern Europe while provoking, shunning, and snubbing Russia proved to be the trigger for Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. And while Ukraine was the ultimate trigger for Russian military action, Russian political and economic initiatives in the Third World and elsewhere could be the trigger for American military interventions at a time when Americans are war-weary and do not have the appetite for war. One must also note that the biggest source of anxiety for Russia is the expansion of Western military equipment and installations along its periphery.

Also, whereas the initial Cold War had an ideological basis or foundation that essentially transcended cultural and national boundaries, the renewed ‘Cold War Context’ in the 21st century rests on racial, cultural, and perhaps even religious foundations. Thus, one major implication of the 21st century ‘Cold War Context’ is perhaps a de-coupling of the ‘Western Bloc’ from an ‘Eastern Bloc’ that is taking shape not only as a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but also as a result of a global hegemonic policy that came out of Washington over the course of the last couple of decades. In turn, this global hegemonic policy led to a major economic transfer from West to East that is spurred by energy and manufacturing, which in turn enables the renewal and perpetuation of a global ‘Cold War.’

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