New cold war in the offing
As explained in my earlier article titled ‘World Wars and Cold War’, during the Cold War, proxy wars were common because the two super powers didn’t dare to fight each other directly due to nuclear deterrence. The US led west demonized USSR and scared the world to keep away from the monster of communism. The US projected itself as the champion of democracy and human rights and guardian of free world. CIA was used covertly and NATO overtly to spread US area of influence. KGB assisted by Warsaw Pact military alliance of seven Eastern European States did the same. Arms race between the two super powers impacted the economy of USSR. Its economy was further battered in the Afghan war.
In the aftermath of defeat and pullout of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in February 1989, followed by Michael Gorbachev’s glasnost to democratize communism and Perestroika to open up and restructure economy resulted in Soviet economic meltdown. Several Soviet Republics rebelled and sought independence. With its military and nuclear power intact, the huge Soviet Empire fragmented from within on December 15, 1991 and broke into 15 smaller States and USSR shrunk to Russian Federation. The US emerged as the sole super power putting an end to bi-polar world and giving way to uni-polar world.
The neo-cons in USA and American Jewish lobby mulled over how to make 21st century the ‘American Century’ and to rule the world for next hundred years. For the achievement of this goal, a convincing motive had to be manufactured. The New World Order (NWO) conceived by George W. Bush senior in 1989 was modified and the Red Army threat was replaced with green flag threat. Islam was hyped and projected as the chief threat to US dominated capitalism and international order.
Within Muslim world, radical States such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Somalia and Iran were marked as ‘dangerous’. This was confirmed by Patrick Buchman in 2003. Samuel Huntington gave credence to this theme in 1990s by writing in his book ‘Clash of Civilizations’ that in future, wars would no longer take place between countries but between cultures and that the best candidate for the upcoming divide would be between Islam and the west.
One of the major reasons of projecting Islam as the major threat to US hegemony was the concept of US uni-polarism propounded by Brzezinski in 1970s. For the achievement of this ambitious objective, he like the earlier strategists held Eurasia as the key region, the capture of which would ensure control over Africa and facilitate world domination. Eurasia is the largest continent where lay treasures of the world. For effective control of Eurasia, he had recommended establishment of western front in Europe and southern front in Asia complementing each other. He was categorical in his assessment that whosoever controlled Eurasia dominated the world.
NATO had lost its relevance to exist after the end of Cold War and dismantlement of Warsaw Pact for which it had been created. Some way had to be found to keep it operational. NATO was tasked to expand eastward and integrate as many East European, Baltic and Caucasus States. It got heavily involved in Balkans. Once its membership jumped from 16 to 28 States, it was made into a global task force. The western front was thus maintained and not dissolved. Paradoxically, the western front was reinforced after dismantling the southern front in Afghanistan in 1989.
Having consolidated and expanded NATO in the 1990s, the US hawks then waited for an opportunity or an excuse to establish southern front in Asia for which Afghanistan and Iraq had been earmarked as target countries in the modified draft of NWO in 1997. 9/11, whether real or engineered, provided the excuse the US was eagerly looking for to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq.
Demolition of Afghanistan in November 2001 and Iraq in 2003 undertaken by George W Bush junior led neo-cons were aimed at establishing a secure southern front to complement the western front that was established by merging Eastern Europe into European Union in early 1990s. The underlying idea behind the establishment of two fronts was to disrupt and occupy Central Asia, capture all its energy resources and thus gain control over whole of Eurasian continent.
Russia under Boris Yeltsin remained economically dependent upon USA and Western Europe to survive. Yeltsin’s lackadaisical approach allowed NATO and CIA to extend their outreach into Eastern Europe. CIA was actively involved in fomenting color revolutions in Eastern Europe, Baltic, Caucasus and Central Asia. Biggest breakthroughs were fall of Berlin wall and reunification of Germany, breakup of Yugoslavia into six independent States and disintegration of Czechoslovakia.
In the new millennium, the situation began to change when Russia came under Putin in 1999. Since then, he has remained in power at a stretch and held both the appointments of President and PM. He resolved to rebuild weakened Russia and regain part if not all the glory of demolished Soviet Empire. He started to reassert Russia’s authority in global politics as well as over its breakaway Republics by making good use of its oil and gas resources. EU became dependent upon Gazprom for gas. Six Central Asian Republics are the soft belly of Russia, on which the US has its eyes since long and which Russia can ill-afford to lose.
NATO’s eastward drive towards the heartland of Russia and the US insistence to deploy Missile Defense Shield (MDS) were hostile steps and in violation of the US-Russia treaty signed in 1990 that the US will not threaten Russia’s security interests. Poland and Czech Republic were persuaded to deploy components of the MDS. The plea taken was that the MDS was meant to safeguard USA from rogue States like North Korea and Iran. Putin expressed his concerns asserting that the MDS was Russia focused and threatened to counter the threat. It strained US-Russia relations.
After the CIA inspired rose revolution in Georgia which brought down President Eduard Shevardnadze and brought in pro-western President Mikhail Saakashvilli to power in 2004, the first serious Russian encounter with the US took place in Georgia in August 2008 when Russian troops invaded Georgia on August 8, 2008 and by 10th occupied several Georgian cities and bulk of breakaway South Ossetia as well as Abkhazia. Since then, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are firmly in control of Moscow.
The next standoff between the two has taken place in Ukraine. When the government of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in February 2014, he fled to Russia. Putin reacted by sending Russian troops and seizing Crimea in early March and amassing 40,000 troops along eastern border of Ukraine. Sevastopol seaport in Crimea is an important Russian naval base which it cannot afford to lose. In a popular referendum held on March 16, Crimeans voted to join Russia. After ratification by the two houses of Russian Parliament, annexation of Crimea was formalized on March 21.
Eastern Ukraine is heavily populated by Russian speaking and pro-Russia people. Unrest is going on in several cities and militants are urging Moscow to send in Russian troops. Although NATO has thus far shown restraint by desisting from moving towards Ukraine’s western border, situation is still tense. While Putin is using gas as a weapon to tighten up Ukraine, EU which is itself heavily dependent upon Russian oil and gas has imposed sanctions and threatened to apply further sanctions to force Russia to lay its hands off Ukraine. The US accused Russia for attacking Ukraine on trumped-up pretext and has hurled a warning, giving rise to fears that another Cold War may be in the offing.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. email@example.com