The expulsion of US diplomats from the Kremlin walls brought the Cold War call to the front pages of the newspapers. Something we have been accustomed to seeing cyclically for a few years.
- Thursday, 03 August 2017
No, really, the cold war has nothing to do with our days. Analysts are unanimous in saying that it is merely a journalistic simplification. A cliché used to give a simple explanation of the Russian, European and American moves around the crisis in Ukraine, the result of "a trivial cognitive inertia, which leads us to interpret today’s world with the criteria of yesterday’s world", in the words of Alessandro Colombo, ISPI fellow.
I add that there are many good reasons for not mentioning a new Cold War between the US and Russia. Here there are my top five:
- At the time of the Iron Curtain, USA and the USSR were both two global superpowers. Although according to some historiansthe American hegemony has never been challenged, there is no doubt that the Soviet Union had a global dimension that could interfere with American foreign policy. Putin's Russia is far from being a global actor, it is rather a big regional player that claims the right to act in its exclusive sphere.
2.An ideological opposition was pivotal in the clash between the West and the Soviet world.The Ussr opposed the communist doctrine to the materialistic capitalism that ruled the rest of the world. They had two different worldviews. Today, both Russia and the Eurasian Union (which many insist to call a remake of the USSR) are not carriers of any ideology.
- Russia is not a threat. It is not, at least, for America and parts of Europe. It is not like the USSR used to be, when the possibility of a nuclear war was constantly on the tables of diplomacies and the Red Army spoiled the sleep of NATO’smilitary commanders. The Russian expansionism, or whatever, is only a reflection of its dimension of aregional powerthat sees its role as threatened.
- We no longer live in a single-enemy world
There is no longer imaginable a world divided into two blocks, not at Al Qaida and Daesh, and North Korea's ballistic missiles.
US and Russia can still be allied - albeit recalcitrant - in different areas of the world. As in Syria.
- Russia depends on the West as much as the rest of the world depends on Russian raw materials. The Russian budget is literally funded by the export of energy, which constitutes as much as 50%. To get an idea of the dependence of the Russian economy on gas and oil trade, just think that the multi-annual budget break-even is set to a price of crude oil at $ 100 per barrel. A much lower price would cause a catastrophe. It is clear that Russia cannot afford to lose its best creditworthy customer, i.e. Europe.
- 6. The world of 2014 is not that of 1960. The international economic links are more tight and interconnected. Russia is a member of the WTO, the Council of Europe, the International Monetary Fund and many other international organizations. A Cold War scenario is not convenient to anyone and mainly to Russia. The international isolation, besides the nationalist rhetoric directed to the domestic audience, it is a bugbear for Putin and for the oligarchs who support him. It should not be a coincidence that the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergej Lavrov, called a few days ago for a new reset of relations with the United States.