Has A Second Cold War Just Begun?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, even if it were to end suddenly tomorrow, will have already altered the world’s outlook in a kind of “second” cold war setting.
With or without President Vladimir Putin at the helm in Russia, Russia will be seen once again as a global threat. Perhaps not as menacing (at least not yet) as it were in the Cold War, but sufficiently enough for the U.S. and EU-NATO to strengthen their alliance and renew priorities in resources dedicated to military and security threats (i.e. cyberwarfare).
End of Peace Dividend Era
Essentially, the “peace dividend” period — beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall and break up of the Soviet Union up until this very significant invasion — is over. It’s unfortunate because during this period, the world (Russia included) experienced economic growth, confidence in security to invest most resources into nation-building. For the most part, it was a period of prosperity.
This is not to say that prosperity will cease, but the two major global threats of late (pandemic and this war), economists say, will lessen full economic globalization as it is for more domestic building (more balance between both). Why? Because both events have affected critical supply chains and spiked energy prices to where national security has been threatened. And more importantly, like in the case of oil-gas prices (Russia as a major exporter), the U.S. and Europe realized how vulnerable they are to world market trading.
What a second cold war could look like
Entering a second cold war, we will not only see an increased reallocation of resources into security by the multi-millions even billion (Germany announced it will invest 2% of its national budget into defense), but international geopolitical relations will once again be extremely sensitive.
*Led by the U.S., NATO overnight has suddenly become relevant again. Investments into NATO will only get larger, and thus, stronger. Ironically, one of Putin’s justifications for invading Ukraine was the overexpansion of NATO and his perceived threat of NATO at his doorstep. His invasion just fulfilled his fear, of a stronger NATO.
*Even though Russia looks to be a pariah by the West, Russian relations with other countries outside of the West will continue and perhaps even strengthen with China, the world’s future biggest economy. China is playing a neutral role in this Russian invasion and has not participated in EU-NATO sanctions against Putin. India, the Gulf countries, rising emergent world economies, will most likely continue their relations with Russia. In fact EU nations are still dependent on Russian oil and have not followed the U.S. lead in cutting Russian imports.
One silver lining, as it were when foreign threats seemed urgent and real to Americans, the political divide in the U.S. will not be as acrimonious and toxic. We saw a glimpse of this in President Joe Biden’s 2002 State of the Union where bipartisan applause erupted when Biden spoke of the Russian invasion. Days later, there was bipartisan agreement on providing billions more in aid to Ukraine.
This sudden “coming together” and spirit of goodwill could be temporary as soon as the midterms start to heat up. Still, just refocusing energy and paying less attention to our differences politically and looking to world matters (the war) alleviates the thick tension we’ve been having.
Russia without Putin
As Russians, both oligarchs and average citizens, begin to feel the pains of the sanctions exacted by the West, it’s expected that chaos and anti-Putin resistance will soon mount internally. But as Putin has showed, he is capable of ruling with a heavy hand, iron fist.
Economic hardship due to foreign sanctions could also have the opposite effect and build nationalism within Russia. No one knows how this will be played out. But even with Putin out and as Russia remains a military power with nukes, the West is shaken and old Cold War fears already aroused.
Putin’s removal from power (the best scenario for the world) is far from certain, particularly if he is able to fill the lost economic gaps from the West with China investments. Just days ago, U.S. Intelligence reported that Putin has asked China to help Russia during this time of war.
And China appears emboldened by Putin. Any country supporting Taiwan militarily, China warned this week, would face the “worst consequences.” Sounds familiar?
Expected but unexpected
For years foreign policy experts and diplomats have been warning the world of Putin, of his shadow side, the side where he controls Russian media, allegedly eliminates his political enemies, and his autocratic tendencies and desire to extend that power by rebuilding Soviet empire-style reach and world prominence.
Russian Putin critics have said that the West actually enabled Putin to power and to be in a position to be so bold as to invade Ukraine (he’s already invaded Georgia and Crimea) by opening up their western financial markets to him and his oligarchs.
It could be argued if the west had imposed harsher sanctions years ago during those invasions, perhaps this Ukraine invasion would not have occurred.
The unexpected had just happened in spite of warnings and signs (even from Putin’s own words as he has been threatening NATO expansion for years). Ukraine has been invaded. World security is threatened.
The U.S. .and NATO must continue to take prudent, cautious steps during this world crisis. Give sanctions time to play out. Expanding the military conflict is the last scenario the world wants. We should continue to help Ukraine, offer not just military and humanitarian aid, but offer direction toward finding working, lasting peace in the region.