The term “Cold War” is a dangerous euphemism if it implies that it was not a real armed encounter and thus not so grave. Some people in our Western countries remember the first Cold War and will think that life was not so bad back then. The following article is intended to show that this means that the hot wars in the Cold War, the millions of human victims of a Cold War and the billions of costs – also at the expense of fundamental political, economic, and social tasks – are being ignored.
Whatever one may call the current relationship between the “West” on the one hand and states such as Russia and China on the other, the fact is that relations have increasingly deteriorated in recent years and continue to escalate. Nevertheless, many of us in the West – especially those in positions of political responsibility and in the leading media, or so one gets the impression – think that this is exactly the right path to “success”. Hadn’t the first Cold War been won without a major armed conflict precisely by showing “strength” in the first half of the 1980s – breaking off relations with the Soviet Union in many areas, entangling the country in a war with many victims in Afghanistan, rearming massively and thus also driving the Soviet Union into bankruptcy!
Strength instead of “appeasement”?
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, expressed this view again in an article for the US magazine Foreign Affairs on 10 December 2021 – 30 years after the end of the first Cold War: “The West must respond to Russia with strength, not appeasement”. The word “appeasement” is not chosen at random. It is not only an unmistakable allusion to the common accusation against the Western powers and their relations with National Socialist Germany before the Second World War, and especially regarding the “Munich Agreement” of September 1938, when the Western powers of the time (above all Great Britain and France) had allowed National Socialist Germany to pursue its aggressive power policy for far too long due to weakness and misjudgements. The result was the Second World War. But this word “appeasement” also contains a sharp political judgement on today’s Russia.
First Cold War – a hair’s breadth away from nuclear world destruction
This is how one suppresses the dangers of a policy of “strength”. Even in the first Cold War, a third world war could very well have occurred. In the fall of 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world was on the brink of such a nuclear third world war. At that time, too, there were forces in the Soviet Union and in the USA that were counting on “strength” and wanted to go to war. But the politicians ultimately responsible at the time, above all the then US President Kennedy and the General Secretary of the CPSU Khrushchev, ultimately relied on diplomacy and were only able to defuse the crisis in this way. The later statement of the then US Secretary of Defence McNamara – “In the end we lucked out. It was luck that we prevented nuclear war” – cannot be quoted often enough.
Millions of victims nevertheless
But even without a nuclear war, the first Cold War caused millions of victims and billions of costs. The “proxy wars” in the first Cold War are worth mentioning. The Korean War cost the lives of more than 4.5 million people, the Vietnam War almost three million and the first Afghanistan War from 1979 more than one million – in each of these wars mainly civilians. Many other Cold War theatres of war should be added. On 3 March 2016, the German newspaper “Die Welt” wrote: “At least 22 million dead in around 150 military conflicts: That is the balance sheet of the confrontation of the Western democratic world with the Soviet communist bloc between 1945 and 1990. In the Third World, unlike in Europe, the Cold War was pretty hot for a long time.” The newspaper added: “In the consciousness in this country, this dimension does not play a role. That is understandable in view of the relief that the threat of nuclear overkill has failed to materialise. But this way the picture remains incomplete.”
These wars also caused enormous material destruction, and the arms expenditure swallowed up trillions – money that was lacking for other state tasks, for the common good.
The political costs of a Cold War
One must also talk about the political costs. In 2016, “Die Welt” spoke of the “Western democratic world” – but these “democracies” suffered massively from the warfare of their countries. Just a few references here: to the military-industrial complex and its growing, democratically non-legitimised political power, which even a departing US president warned against in his farewell speech in the 1950s; to the violent sabotage of independent developments in the former European colonies under the sign of the Cold War and the continuation of oppression and exploitation – the Congo is just one example of many in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
And how do the past 30 years after the end of the first Cold War look in this respect? It is an open secret that NATO’s war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO’s war against Afghanistan in 2001, the war of the USA and its “coalition of the willing” against Iraq in 2003, NATO’s wars against Libya in 2011 and against Syria since 2011 also must be seen in the geopolitical context of the confrontation between the great powers USA, Russia, and China. This applies no less to NATO’s eastward expansion, to the EU’s “eastern partnerships” – and not least to the situation in today’s Ukraine.
How many more victims are there to be?
Paving the way for diplomacy and the negotiating table
No one has yet been able to convincingly explain why serious diplomacy should not also, and even especially, be sought in the new Cold War. There is, however, one precondition: All parties involved must want serious diplomatic steps and an easing of the situation, and it must be about more than PR actions.
If one studies the statements from Russia and China and the political goals of both countries, there is much to suggest that they cannot have any interest in a further escalation. However, it remains to be seen to what extent they believe in the possibility of a negotiated solution in the short term at the moment and after the experiences of the past years – because this also requires real negotiating partners.
And what about the leaders in our Western countries? Are they counting on negotiations? Or do they believe that they can “win” a second Cold War without a major armed conflict?
But then the question for us citizens is what we can do to challenge such a belief, to decisively reject escalation and violence and to open a door – from our side – to diplomacy and the negotiating table.
P S: On 15 December 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation handed over two draft treaties to the US representatives in the country, one entitled “Agreement on Ensuring the Security of the Russian Federation and the Member States of NATO”, another entitled “Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Security Guarantees”. Both treaty drafts are about three pages long, were also published on 17 December together with a press release by the Russian Foreign Ministry and can be read on the Ministry’s website in Russian and English.
It must be left open at this point whether these two texts and the accompanying Russian statements surrounding them can provide a decisive impetus for negotiations. Anyone reading the texts will easily recognise the public position of the Russian Federation on many points. But it is still miles away from what has been publicly advocated so far in the USA and NATO. The first quick reactions of German-language media therefore also showed a sharp rejection of the Russian demands. In the meantime, however, there seem to be a few responsible voices in the USA and Europe who have perhaps realised the seriousness of the situation. What is happening behind the scenes, as so often, eludes the knowledge of all outsiders – and we citizens, who should also express our opinion, are still absorbed with COVID-19. Hence, now we can only hope that there are new insights at the crucial institutions and that we are spared a further escalation of the conflict. •
The military political situation in the world remains complicated, with increased conflict potential and new seats of tension in several regions. In particular, the growth of the US and NATO military forces in direct proximity to the Russian border and major military drills, including unscheduled ones, are a cause for concern.
It is extremely alarming that elements of the US global defence system are being deployed near Russia. The Mk 41 launchers, which are located in Romania and are to be deployed in Poland, are adapted for launching the Tomahawk strike missiles. If this infrastructure continues to move forward, and if US and NATO missile systems are deployed in Ukraine, their flight time to Moscow will be only 7–10 minutes, or even five minutes for hypersonic systems. This is a huge challenge for us, for our security.
In this context, as you are aware, I invited the US President to start talks on the drafting of concrete agreements. Incidentally, during our conversation he actually proposed appointing senior officials to oversee this sphere. It was in response to his proposal that we drafted our proposals on precluding the further eastward expansion of NATO and the deployment of offensive strike systems in the countries bordering on Russia. As you are aware, we have sent the drafts of relevant agreements to our American colleagues and the NATO leadership.
We need long-term legally binding guarantees. Well, we know very well that even legal guarantees cannot be completely fail-safe, because the United States easily pulls out of any international treaty that has ceased to be interesting to it for some reason, sometimes offering explanations and sometimes not, as was the case with the ABM and the Open Skies treaties – nothing at all.
However, we need at least something, at least a legally binding agreement rather than just verbal assurances. We know the worth of such verbal assurances, fine words and promises. Take the recent past, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when we were told that our concerns about NATO’s potential expansion eastwards were absolutely groundless. And then we saw five waves of the bloc’s eastward expansion. Do you remember how it happened? All of you are adults. It happened at a time when Russia’s relations with the United States and main member states of NATO were cloudless, if not completely allied.
I have already said this in public and will remind you of this again: American specialists were permanently present at the nuclear arms facilities of the Russian Federation. They went to their office there every day, had desks and an American flag. Wasn’t this enough? What else is required? US advisors worked in the Russian Government, career CIA officers gave their advice. What else did they want? What was the point of supporting separatism in the North Caucasus, with the help of even ISIS – well, if not ISIS, there were other terrorist groups. They obviously supported terrorists. What for? What was the point of expanding NATO and withdrawing from the ABM Treaty?
They are to blame for what is happening in Europe now, for the escalation of tensions there. Russia had to respond at every step, and the situation was continuously going from bad to worse. It was deteriorating all the time. And here we are today, in a situation when we are forced to resolve it: After all, we cannot allow the scenario I mentioned. Is anyone unable to grasp this? This should be clear.
Sometimes I wonder: Why did they do all this in the then conditions? This is unclear. I think the reason lies in the euphoria from the victory in the so-called Cold War or the so-called victory in the Cold War. This was due to their wrong assessment of the situation at that time, due to their unprofessional, wrong analysis of probable scenarios. There are simply no other reasons.
I would like to emphasise again: we are not demanding any special exclusive terms for ourselves. Russia stands for equal and indivisible security in the whole of Eurasia.
Naturally, as I have already noted, if our Western colleagues continue their obviously aggressive line, we will take appropriate military-technical reciprocal measures and will have a tough response to their unfriendly steps. And I would like to stress that we are fully entitled to these actions that are designed to ensure Russia’s security and independence.
As we know well, they are operating thousands of kilometres away from their national territory under different pretexts, including the need to ensure their own security. When international law and the UN Charter get in their way, they declare them obsolete and unnecessary. However, when something meets their interests, they immediately refer to the norms of international law, the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and so on. These manipulations are annoying.
Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67402 of 21 December 2021
cc. The Mexican daily newspaper “La Jornada” is one of the most renowned newspapers in Latin America. On 24 December 2021, it wrote in its editorial:
«Russian President Vladimir Putin assessed the first reactions of the United States to the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine as ‘positive’. According to the president, his ‘American partners’ are ready to ‘start this discussion, these negotiations, early this year in Geneva’, which could open the door to détente after months of escalating statements in which the Kremlin accuses the West of threatening its borders and seeking NATO’s eastward expansion, while Washington and the European Union claim Russia is preparing to invade neighbouring Ukraine.
Containing NATO expansion is crucial for Russia’s national security, and Putin has made it clear that any new membership of former Soviet states would be unacceptable. It should be recalled that the non-expansion of the Atlantic Alliance was one of the commitments made by the West in the agreements following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that the continued violation of this agreement has resulted in Russia being almost completely surrounded by hostile and heavily armed countries on its western flank.
The conflict in Ukraine is of utmost importance not only for those directly involved, but also for the entire international community, as it is one of the two disputes that could lead to an armed clash between the great powers and thus destabilise the entire world.”
Source: La Jornada of 24 December 2021
(Translation Current Concerns)
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