Cold War warriors take over – OpEd – Eurasia Review
By Jonathan Power *
Oh, become a Cold War warrior again! I have always had a little pity on those politicians, academics, soldiers and journalists who linked their careers to the forward march of the Cold War. It was satisfying. There was clearly an enemy. The complex arithmetic on which side had what and what nuclear weapons could do was as intellectually satisfying as it was complicated.
At its most sophisticated level – the SALT and START nuclear arms reduction negotiations between the United States and the United States – it required the spirit of a chess master and the tenacity of an Olympic athlete. It was a wonderfully gratifying feeling when it was once recognized that you were a member of this elite group.
When the Cold War ended in 1989 with a series of arms limitation agreements, these people in the Blob were effectively unemployed. While on the ground, this should have been the time for the two superpowers to get rid of all their nuclear weapons. What were they used for?
Lying down, though unused, they could be picked up and deployed again if relationships deteriorated – which they did. In other words, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. They made leaders nervous and helped keep animosity alive, even if it was below the surface. If they had been done away with, a shift in feelings from the good to the less good wouldn’t have had the savage and malicious bite it makes today.
Fortunately for the old warriors of the Cold War, the “Islamic threat” and the “war on terror” arrived, who worked to renew their contracts. No matter how few people knew anything about Islam, its history, or its doctrines, they rushed forward, contorting themselves with facts and opinions that they struggled to grasp. All of this mingled with the personalities and actions of Osama bin Laden of Al Qaeda and the mercurial Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the private wars they waged against Western interests.
Indeed, Bin Laden dealt a fatal blow when his henchman hijacked passenger planes and flew them into New York’s Twin Towers. He justified it by referring to the Koran. An overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world were appalled. But many Westerners insisted on tracing Bin Laden’s activities back to Muhammad’s teaching.
A little later, the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan, the redoubt of bin Laden.
It took some time, but not that long, before attention shifted to Iraq where the pagan president of an Islamic country, Saddam Hussein, allegedly possessed nuclear weapons. and chemicals. Again, this justified the United States holding on to its massive nuclear arsenal, albeit greatly reduced thanks to START.
It all meant jobs for boys – or to use the gender-neutral term, the “blob,” a word coined by Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. It’s a splendid phrase that describes the coalition of conservative politicians, military officers, academics and journalists – some Republicans, some Democrats – who do indeed hold the reins of foreign policy and realpolitik and can often undermine the “peaceful” tendencies of a sitting president. . (President Joe Biden before he became president was not part of this cabal.)
And then ? Bin Laden and Hussein were killed. Their movements collapsed. Terrorism against American and European targets has continued but on a limited scale – in the United States in recent years, most terrorist attacks have been carried out by white Americans, not Islamic extremists.
But the Americans – and the British too, who have fought more wars than any other country in the world – seem to need an enemy. (But not the Germans, who are fed up with the war.) The benevolent atmosphere of the early post-Cold War years has gradually dissipated. Inevitably, there were irritants, and the West’s response has been partly understandable but often exaggerated. Russia and its police, security apparatus and courts have not been trained to respect human rights, so abuses are inevitable.
Under President Boris Yeltsin, the economy plunged. He sold state assets at bargain prices to oligarchs who in turn pledged their support to him, using their recently acquired media and funding his election campaign. They turned Russia into a kind of non-Western kleptocracy, an activity also pursued by Yelstin’s successor, Vladimir Putin. Yet Yeltsin’s staunch pro-Americanism seemed to excuse him for such excesses, and the United States intervened clandestinely in the 1996 election to ensure he won.
It was inevitable that this interference would later produce an anti-Western reaction among a large part of the Russian people.
America’s rulers (and the British too, who have fought more wars than any other country in the world) seem to need an enemy, often to shore up their political support at home. The born again warriors of the Cold War attacked every Russian mistake or minor provocation. Then President Bill Clinton made the faux pas – one of the worst in Europe’s long history – by deciding to expand NATO. President Georges. HW Bush had promised Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not advance “an inch” eastward.
This was part of an agreement that allowed the reunification of Germany and for East Germany to be part of West Germany’s membership in NATO. Clinton pushed this deal to one side and quickly signed up as NATO members, former members of the Warsaw Pact – Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Czechoslovakia. Subsequent presidents – George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump – extended the reach of the new NATO to the borders of Russia. To say the least, it drove the Russians crazy. The anger not only of Putin, but of 90% of his people is tangible.
One of the results is to make a large majority of Russians (Putin does not have to stir up public opinion) very sensitive to any Western encroachment on Ukraine, which for centuries has been part of Russia.
Currently, the “Blob” is pushing Biden into confrontation with Russia, using as justification the deployment of around 100,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. For a few weeks he seemed to be leaning this way. More recently, Biden changed his rhetoric, removed its ambiguity, and made it clear that the United States would not militarily defend Ukraine if there was a Russian invasion.
“The idea that the United States will unilaterally use force to confront Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not an option at the moment”Biden told reporters after his conversation with Putin on Dec. 7. However, very serious sanctions are threatened.
At least Biden and Putin talk to each other and plan to talk to each other more regularly. It’s for the good. Misunderstandings can be avoided and dangerous military maneuvers avoided.
Even so, Cold War 2 may have arrived. The Blob, while not getting everything it wants, is booming. The Russians have their counterparts. If the two ever tango together, it could be a “goodbye” – miscalculation and overconfidence could lead to nuclear war.
Ukraine has become the tail that, with the help of the Blob, wags the western dog. To avoid the dire consequences of this, Biden and Putin must breathe new life into the so-called Minsk accord that committed the United States, its main allies, Russia and Ukraine, to a step-by-step solution that could operate end hostilities.
The deeply corrupt, extremely nationalistic, media-controlling Ukrainian government sabotaged this. In addition to bringing peace to Ukraine, this would pull the carpet under the Blob, an act necessary if the United States and its partners are to contribute to a more peaceful world in the future.
*About the Author: The writer was for 17 years a foreign affairs columnist and commentator for the International Herald Tribune, now the New York Times. He has also written several dozen articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. It was the European who appeared the most in the opinion pages of these newspapers. Visit his website: www.jonathanpowerjournalist.com