Shahad Ismail considers Mikhail Gorbachev’s recent remark that the world is entering another Cold War
While marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 8th November, Mikhail Gorbachev issued an ominous warning, saying the crisis in Ukraine has put the world on the brink of a new Cold War.
Such arresting claims, while causing chaos and controversy on the headlines of all major news outlets, seem to be unfounded when one considers the absence of chief factors that sparked the first (and likely only) Cold War.
Most importantly, the Cold War was an unfortunate, yet inevitable consequence of the Second World War. This unique context – the downfall of Germany, a key player in international relations – left a power vacuum in desperate need of filling. In the aftermath of the war, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as paradoxically rival victors who no longer had conflict and a common enemy to tie them into a “marriage of convenience”. The Ukraine crisis, which has undoubtedly caused tensions between the US and Russia, is unlikely to cause the same scale of conflict as the Second World War because it doesn’t have the same global implications as the defeat of Germany.
There’s also the argument that modern Russia doesn’t pose the same threat to the US that the Soviet Union did during the immediate postwar era. By focusing on rebuilding and redefining itself, Russia does not possess the military or economic capability to rival the United States. In fact, if there were to be another Cold War, China – not Russia – would be a more apt American adversary.
East-West tensions have recently been exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine, the creation of a Eurasian Union and, more recently, the second major gas deal between Russia and China – an apparent attempt at ending the dominance of the dollar. This hardly signals a new turning point in relations which have remained uneasy since the break-up of the USSR.
Because of Ukraine, relations between the United States and Russia are indeed at their worst in the post-Cold War era. But, moves have already been made to ease this bilateral tension.
Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov – on the same day Gorbachev made his new Cold War claims –openly welcomed US participation, saying it would be a “step in the right direction”. High-level conferences are also planned to take place between Putin and other world leaders, including President Obama, at the upcoming APEC Summit in China and the G-20 summit in Australia.
When Gorbachev instituted reforms in the Soviet Union during the late 1980s, he was entirely unable to predict their ultimate effect – the fall of the Soviet Union. Considering that fact, it’s rather unlikely that his prediction the world is about to enter a second Cold War offers anything more substantial than simply shock value. Maybe it’s time Mr Gorbachev enjoy his retirement and put away that crystal ball.
Featured image credit: Вени Марковски/Wikipedia