Friday, October 19, 2007

Cold War--over?

The US realpolitik foreign policy under Bush and the Iraq war have come at a huge price. The astute commentators are pointing to the renewal of the Cold War. The relationship between Russia and US are at its lowest since the 90s. The recent Caspian summit among Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan where the involved countries have made progress in discussing the division of the seabed and oil in the region among themselves to the exclusion of any 'outsiders' has alarmed the US (here). Moreover, the statements by Putin at the summit that 'use of force' in the region is absolutely unacceptable in the face of Pentagon's talks with respect to the Iran nuclear project are in stark opposition to the US plans (here).

Also, the recent diplomatic meeting between US and Russia has been so unsuccessful that BBC called the relationship a 'Lukewarm war.' Well, Russia is alarmed in a major way with the Bush administration's attempts to place nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe. This is in breach of the promises made in the 80s between Gorbachev and Reagan, stipulated in bilateral treaties. The US reasoning that those weapons are to protect against Iran is of no avail, because Iran currently does not possess nuclear weapons. So, Russia is taking this move as directed against herself.

The oil-rich reserves targeted by all developed countries in the Middle East and Caspian seabed are an important reason behind these developments. But it is also Russia's dissatisfaction with the US superpower status. The US influence in the Caucasus, specifically in Georgia has increased. The Caucasus historically was a major stronghold for Russia, as a territory where it could protect its land mass from attacks. As a country constantly invaded, Russia's mentality is insecure and defensive. On the other hand, US also has become increasingly insecure since the 9/11.

Personalities do matter in politics. Gorbachev and Reagan were idealists relative to Putin and Bush, both realists. Of course, these labels should not be taken literally and Putin's legacy for Russia will probably be different from Bush's for America. It is not for me to judge. The national polls of Russian and American peoples' perception of their presidents is a beginning-point. The popularity of one is in stark contrast with the unpopularity of the other.

Is the Cold War really over? Perhaps we jumped to conclusions when we promulgated so... Or perhaps its end was contingent on parties' willingness to abide by their promises with full commitment...

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