Cold War, the sequelDid the Cold War end in victory for the United States, the stronghold of liberal democracy and the market economy? Perhaps the Cold War smoldered on and was not properly extinguished.
The 21st-century’s new Cold War has started with the resurrection of authoritarian Russia, a country that tries to exert influence while at the same time appearing to adopt democracy.
The world is watching the conflict in Georgia with some concern.
Russia and Georgia have signed a peace treaty, and the gunfire that lasted for nearly a week has stopped. However, the conflict hasn’t ended. Russia’s withdrawal of its forces is proceeding slowly. The United States has sent its Air Force into Georgia in the name of humanitarian aid and suddenly signed a treaty with Poland to install a missile defense system, an agreement that had lain dormant for nearly 20 months.
Russia is issuing a warning about the possible use of force in Poland. The Ukraine and three Baltic countries, former Soviet Union states, are speeding up their efforts to be closer to the West. As tensions build in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union neighborhood, a new conflict is forming.
It started when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, a region that has been seeking separation. The conflict escalated into war as Russia responded with heavy military intervention under the pretext of protecting Russian citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia.
This has been an opportune chance for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to wield power. He has restored Russia’s economic and military power with oil money and is seen as seeking to evoke the glory of the former Soviet Union.
The situation in Georgia shows clearly the instability of the Caucasus region, which is bordered by the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the former republics of the Soviet Union.
The balance of power shifted toward the United States and Europe when the Cold War ended, but now the balance has been upset by the resurgence of a militarily strong Russia.
Russia has clearly underlined that it won’t accept any regions trying to separate from its sphere of influence and any moves to confront its hegemony over the former Soviet Union region.
However, the United States and Europe are cautious. President George W. Bush is a lame duck leader. The United States is tied down by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and needs Russia’s cooperation over Iran’s nuclear issue. As European countries are dependent on Russia’s natural gas, their responses are muted.
The United States emerged as the only superpower after the Cold War ended, and it has boosted its influence with aggressive diplomacy. It ignored international organizations including the United Nations and international opinion when it attacked Iraq.
Despite Russia’s opposition, the United States expanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to former Soviet Union countries and pursued basing a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Although the United States sets Iran as its target, Russia is nervous. By becoming the first to recognize independent Kosovo, the United States is unable to oppose the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the regions that seek separation from Georgia.
What will China choose to do after the Olympic Games and what effects will the country’s decision bring on the new Cold War structure?
History tells us that if a country takes power, it tends to use it. What effects will the change in the order of power bring on the Korean Peninsula? Are we aware of the changes? We must remain alert to them.