The West’s unilateral Cold War

Mar 29,2018 – JORDAN TIMES – Sergei Karaganov

MOSCOW — Rising tensions between the United Kingdom and Russia are but further proof that Russia and the West, according to no less an authority than Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, have entered a “Cold War II”. I tend to disagree.

Yes, Russia’s relations with the United States, and now also with the UK, are worse than in the 1950s, and the chance of a direct conflict is higher than at any time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Given the complexity of today’s strategic nuclear weapons and the systems designed to neutralise them, one cannot rule out the possibility that some actor on either side, or a third party, could provoke escalation.

Making matters worse, communication between US and Russian leaders is all but nonexistent, owing to the lack of trust on both sides. Among Americans, feelings toward Russia verge on something close to hatred, and many in Russia now regard Americans with ill-concealed disdain.

This psychological backdrop to the bilateral relationship truly is worse than during the Cold War. But that does not mean that today’s tensions amount to a sequel. Such a confrontation would require an ideological component that is decidedly lacking on the Russian side.

Russia has no intention of waging another Cold War. Although some degree of confrontation with the US does help President Vladimir Putin unite the public while burnishing Russian elites’ nationalist credentials, Russia is not an ideologically motivated state. What ideology it does have is based in Russian culture and civilisation, which it is not interested in exporting.

The Kremlin in fact prefers not to proselytise on Russia’s behalf. Russia’s approach to international affairs has long centered on respect for national interests and sovereignty, and the belief that all peoples and nations should have the freedom to make their own political, economic and cultural choices. Russia also embraces universal human values such as trust in God, family and country, as well as self-fulfillment through service to society and nation.

I dream of the possibility that even 2 per cent of the accusations concerning Russian “interference” in the 2016 US election proves true. It would bolster my self-esteem as a Russian, while educating Americans, whose government has long interfered in other countries’ internal affairs, about the dangers of throwing stones from a glass house.


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