mercredi 23 avril 2014

Toward a New Cold Civil War?

Both the First and Second World Wars have been called Western civil wars. What they were, in essence. The cold war was different: at least initially it was really a confrontation between different ideologies, between the liberal West and messianistic Communism, calling the «servile masses» to the «last fight». Of course, this internationalist-revolutionary battle cry little by little changed into a slogan hiding clear geopoltical aims and ambitions of the USSR, a country that had to realize it had to take over part of the role the former Russian Empire had played in the world. Still, it didn't completely renounce the aggressivity it had inherited from its revolutionary past. It happened only after the deal between Gorbatchev and the Western leaders in the eighties. Now, after a pause of about thirty years, a new cold war between Russia and the West is looming again. It's immediate cause is recent annexation of Crimea, formally a part of Ukraine, by Russia, and Russia's other aggressive steps toward its smaller neighbour. Here, by and large, the Western opinion seems to agree: Russia has returned to its Soviet past, becoming an expansionist power striving to reconquer its former sphere of influence. Naturally, this expansionism must be met with stiff resistance, the West must mobilize its resources to push the Russians back and show them such a behaviour is not acceptable.

However, there are some dissident voices in this choir of Russia-bashers. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former US ambassador in Moscow Jack Matlock and the CEO of the prestigious Stratfor Institute George Friedman consider Russian moves in Ukraine a reaction to Western moves, first of all the expansion of NATO, as gravely jeopardizing its security. In his book «The Next Hundred Years» Dr Friedman writes that Russia «will take actions that will appear to be aggressive but in fact are defensive. It will focus on recovering influence and control in the former Soviet Union, re-creating the system of buffers it once had.» This was written in 2009. In the same book, he explains his views more in detail:

«The Orange Revolution in Ukraine, from December 2004 to January 2005, was the moment when the post-Cold War world genuinely ended for Russia. The Russians saw the events in Ukraine as an attempt by the United States to draw Ukraine into NATO and thereby set the stage for Russian disintegration. Quite frankly, there was some truth to the Russian perception. If the West had succeeded in dominating Ukraine, Russia would have become indefensible. The southern border with Belarus, as well as the southwestern frontier of Russia, would have been wide open.»

He predicts too that the West will not accept this attempts by Russia to extend its zone of influence: «The United States -- and the countries within the old Soviet sphere -- will not want Russia to go too far.» This prediction has come true: the West has vigorously responded to the annexation of Crimea and other Russian steps in Ukraine. Mostly, this response has been demonstrative and symbolic. There are no signs of an imminent military confrontation between «East» and «West», but the cold war is gaining momentum. And, as always, the first victim in any cold or hot war is truth. In both Russia, and in the West, propagandistic discourse is taking over. Thus, it is very important to listen to other voices, to the dissidents as the analysts I mentioned. 

Now, I have some reason to include another authoritative person to this group of dissidents, namely the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In his recent speech. Mr. Blair considers the most grave threat to the Westas well as to Russia and China, i.e. to the (more or less) civilized and developed world, the creeping advance of the islamic extremism. He says «that Western leaders must "elevate the issue of religious extremism to the top of the agenda". And they must co-operate with other countries - "in particular, Russia and China" - regardless of "other differences".» to quote from the BBC's summary of his speech. We can see Mr Blair's speech as a warning to both Western and Russian leaders to put aside their differences, even the present grave crisis, not to engage in a new civil cold war, but find ways to counter the danger of obscurantist ideology gaining ground in many regions. We chould take this warning very seriously. In some aspects, the Islamic extremism is similar to Fascism and Communism. It is a militant ideology that strives to destroy the old world with its institutions and values and replace it with something that, for Europeans, belong to the dark ages. Unfortunately, this ideology is propagated by circles closely connected with ruling groups in some close allies of the West, as in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. For this reason, the West tends to be more or less silent about the grave abuses (and in some case, the virtual absence) of human rights in these and other islamic countries and the spread of the jihadist ideology in the Islamic and even non-Islamic World. This complacency, understandable in short perspective, can become disastrous in future. I think the West and Russia must find ways to reach an understanding. It is not impossible, and it is important. 

I'd like to add a link to a blog by M. K. Bhadrakumar, former ambassador of India i.a. in Moscow: 

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