Russia And The Cold War 2.0 (II)

Part I

Geopolitical position

The Russian Federation, which appeared on the political map of the world in the early 1990s, represents today extremely influential global actor in international relations. In terms of foreign policy, it is a Russian geopolitical concept of the Near Abroad,[1] which is a traditional sphere of the Russian national and security interest.[2] In geopolitical terms, Russia is an island surrounded by an ocean of different countries that stretch from Finland to Korea, which separates Russia from the European and the Asian centers. A very important factor is also the size of the impact area, which extends from the larger section of the manual on the territory of Eurasia and also immediately adjacent to all key Eurasian players: on west and north with the EU, on the south with the Islamic world and with India in the east with the dynamically developing the People’s Republic of China.

Russia has the access to those actors still of considerable interest in the Near Abroad, which stands for the post-Soviet republics, which after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (the CIS). It was established by the heads of state of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Between December 8th and December 21st, 1991, the 3 original signatories were joined by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. When Georgia joined in 1993 all of the former republics of the USSR excluding the Baltic States had become members of the CIS with the headquarters in Minsk (Belarus).[3] At that time, the primary intention of President B. Yeltsin of Russia was to create an international framework that will fully serve the Russian political, economic, and military interests. The most closely level of integration within the community of CIS is between Russia and Belarus, which results in economic, security and cultural links of these two countries.

The CIS, as a matter of fact, was created on the demise of the USSR for the focal purpose to maintain diplomatic, security, and economic connections between some of the successor states of the ex-Soviet Union. However, the CIS is undermined by the pro-NATO/EU orientation of Ukraine and Georgia and the military cooperation is today coordinated through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (the CSTO) which is comprised of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The main geopolitical task of all of these states is to struggle against the US’s imperialism and NATO’s militarism for the free and democratic world of equals.

The Russian Federation is a legal successor of the USSR. Russia is the leading member of the CIS, recognized de facto after 2014 as a superpower by the West, inherited the Soviet foreign representatives and much of its military from the ex-USSR. Collective security as a system of international security under which all Member States agree to take joint action against states that attack[4] is the focal purpose and task of the CSTO.

The Near Abroad 

For Russia, the Near Abroad is of the most important significance sphere of Russian influence and national interest at the time of the Cold War 2.0. Russia retains its influence in Central Asia, from which it never left even after the collapse of the USSR. In this region, it can be traced certain economic dependence on Russia, which is given by the fact that Russia largely controls the production and transportation capacity of energy resources in the region. Central Asian countries also need Russian support in order to ensure their safety and security because of their military and security capabilities are insufficient to protect their countries from the activities coming from the Islamist fundamentalists, separatist, extremist and terrorist groups.

In East Europe and the Caucasus, Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 show efforts to provoke Russia and to carry out anti-Russian policy fully backed by the West (the USA, the EU, the NATO). An anti-Russian course of these countries is a part of the Western Russophobic geopolitical strategy after 1991 to do the same what they already succeeded in the case of ex-USSR. It means clearly that the focal geopolitical target of the West during the Cold War 1.0 was not the USSR itself but rather Russia. Now, during the Cold War 2.0, the West is using as much as possible countries from the Near Abroad for their anti-Russian policy like Georgia or Ukraine taking into account as well as the strategic importance of both these countries in the Black Sea region.[5]

In the eyes of the US’ administration in Washington, the area of Near Abroad is seen in particular as the extension of the corridor between East Europe, the Caribbean, and Central Asia, which may on one hand serve for the relocation of the US’ and the NATO’s military arsenal in a sensitive area of a Greater Middle East, but from other hand,  to use the regional countries for the exploitation and the transport of oil and gas, especially from the Caspian Sea region.[6]

In both Georgia and Ukraine, the politics of Russophobia after B. Yeltsin lost power in Moscow, open the possibility to join the NATO. However, the Russophobic foundation of the prospect of eventual integration into the NATO, or in the case of Ukraine as well as into the EU, seriously complicated the internal political and economic instability especially in the case of Ukraine. Consequently, in the years 2003−2006 and 2014 in Ukraine have been decommissioned the political elite which was striving for the good and compromised relations with Russia based on the preservation of the Ukrainian national interest and prosperity. In Ukraine, the political situation is also very much influenced by a high degree of the economic depending on Russia for the supply of the energy resources as, for instance, Ukraine covers its gas needs from some 40% through imports from Russia.

In general, The Western propaganda machinery is spoken about the Russian interference in the Ukraine´s policy of international affairs as allegedly the Ukrainian President V. Yanukovich put forth a number of demands which the EU would have to accept before Ukraine would sign the Association Agreement with the EU including the joint modernization of the Ukrainian gas transport system and the revision of the EU’s position on the construction of economically unsound facilities for the transportation of natural gas to Europe, bypassing Ukraine.

Cold war 2 mapOn the other hand, the future of the CIS in the original form was constantly from its beginning under the open question as the West is trying everything to destabilize and finally disintegrate this form of cooperation. Russia is, as a matter of fact, the center of gravity within the CIS’ countries, which is based on the potential and real growth of the Russian economy and, therefore, geopolitical influence. Russia has leading priorities and focal political and economic role in the CIS as, for instance, the US has in the NATO or Germany in the EU. The CIS already formed an alternative multi-ethnic entity and gravity center between the EU and China while the BRICS’ future is to play the same role between the EU and the USA.[7] As a matter of prediction, Russia is going to play a role of the “bridge” between Europe and Asia, which had its importance in relation to North America and its NAFTA free trade zone, but, probably, only if Russia would be able to ensure her political, economic, and security interests in the eastern part of Eurasia.

China

It can be said that Russia is a natural partner for China, a fact which results primarily from two factors: 1) the length of the common border (about 4300 km), and 2) their rapid economic growth. The axis of their bilateral cooperation is particularly founded on cooperation in the field of energy, which stems from the excitement strategy of China’s energy needs.[8] Russia becomes China’s oil and gas (but also of other raw materials) natural supplier as they are located in the regions that are not too far away from China, and, therefore, Russia is one of the key Chinese partners in their provision. For instance, in the first decade of a new millennium, Chinese oil import from Russia was at least 10% of total Chinese oil imports, but since the year 2010, the volume of deliveries of Russian oil had increased more (in 2010 it was 60 million tons). The increase in oil supplies in the future may also occur through commissioning the Angarsk-Nakhodka oil pipeline, which could have led to turning into the Chinese city Dacin in the Far East. A Russian Gazprom also foresees the construction of two pipelines that would deliver in the future to China about 40 billion cubic meters of gas annually.[9]

During the last decade, the increase in the direct supply of electricity from Russia to China dramatically became improved from 500 to 900 million kWh per year to 18 billion kWh per year. It is calculated the increase of China-Russia bilateral trade in 2010 to $60 billion per year compared to $100 billion in 2020 per year. The bilateral cooperation also contributes to the export of Russian weapons, which is now 45% directed to China. The military-political cooperation is on very stage since 2005 when at that time came to a higher level of organization of joint Russian-Chinese military exercises obviously at the US’s expense.[10] It would likely further disrupt the functionality of the common foreign and security policy of the Western countries and their East European satellites.

The West

The end of the Cold War 1.0 gave the US and Russia new opportunities to cooperate. Russia took over the permanent seat (with full veto power) previously held by the Soviet Union at the United Nations Security Council (the UNSC). The Cold War 1.0 had created gridlock in the Council, but the new arrangement meant rebirth in the UN’s action. Russia was also invited to join the informal G-7 gathering of the world’s largest economic powers making it the G-8. The USA and Russia also found ways to cooperate in securing “loose nukes” in former Soviet territory, although there is still much to be done on this issue.

berlin wall
On the evening of November 9, 1989, East Germany announced an easing of travel restrictions to the west, and thousands demanded passage through the Berlin Wall.

However, two periods of Russia-West relations during the Cold War 2.0 exist: 1) From 1991 to 1999; and 2) From 2000 up today. The turning point in those relations became NATO’s banditry aggression of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in March-June 1999. 

Nevertheless, during the first 10 years after the end of the Cold War 1.0, the history of B. Yeltsin’s Russia is characterized by very harmonious (symphonic) economic and political relations with the West, especially with Germany in the area of economic cooperation. The results of such Russia-West relations from 1991 to 1991 were an impressive Russian state’s gold reserves (500 billion €), buying real estate properties all over the Mediterranean littoral by the Russian citizens, huge Russian financial investments in Europe, and, finally, the Russian blindness on the NATO’s and the EU’s aggressive foreign policy at the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia.[11]

Russia’s foreign policy is surely a part of her national and cultural identity as for any other state in history. From 1991 up to 1999, Moscow accepted the Western academic and political propaganda as a sort of “new facts” that:

1. Russia is reportedly no longer a global super or even military power, although its considerable military potential is undeniable and very visible.

2. Russia allegedly has no economic power, although it has by the very fact an enormous economic potential.

3. Russia, as a consequence, cannot have any significant political influence which could affect the new international relations established after 1991, i.e. the NATO’s World Order (the NWO), or better to say – the global Pax Americana.[12]

B. Yeltsin’s Russia became transformed into a Western kind of a client state in political terms, especially with regard to the questions of global politics. For instance, the Kosovo Question was de facto solved in 1999 by NATO’s aggression on the FRY with B. Yeltsin’s silent approval. One can say that as a matter of compensation, V. Putin’s Russia in 2008 succeeded to obtained the Western de facto approval for Russia’s protectorate over the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which self-proclaimed independence from Georgia[13] what, if it happens on that way, is going to be a clear proof of a new Russia’s position in the global politics after the Yeltsin’s time.

Since Russia formally has lost all the attributes of a superpower after the dissolution of the Soviet Union (at least in the 1990s), her political elite has in the early 1990s become oriented towards closer association with the institutional structures of the West – in accordance with her officially general drift towards liberal-democratic reform. Till 1995, Russia had become a member of almost all structures of the NATO, even of the Partnership for Peace Programme what is telling the best about the real aims of the Yeltsin Russia’s foreign policy up to 2008 when a new Russia of V. Putin finally decided to defend her own national interest, at least at the doorstep (in the Caucasus) of her own home. In May 1997 Russia signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, which meant de facto that she accepted NATO as the core of the Euro-Atlantic system of global security.[14]

For the matter of comparison with the USA, in October 1962, at the height of the Cold War 1.0, the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of a real nuclear war over the placement of the USSR’s missiles in the island of Cuba – a courtyard (not even a doorstep) of the USA. It was the closest moment the world ever came to unleashing the WWIII.[15] In other words, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the US Kennedy’s administration was ready to invade the independent state of Cuba (with already the US’ military base on the island) and even to go to WWIII against the USSR if necessary as Washington understood Cuba as a courtyard of the USA.

Whether or not the ruling structures in Russia had expected a more important role for their country in its relations with the new partners since 1995 there have been certain stagnation in the relations with the West, accompanied by the insistence on the national interests of Russia. In practice, this was manifested in the attempts to strengthen the connections with the CIS’ countries with which Russia had more stable and secure relations. However, the state of relations within the CIS, accompanied with a very difficult economic and politically unstable situation in some of the countries in the region, prevented any organizational or other progress in this direction. Still, the CIS has remained the primary strategic focus for Russia, especially when it comes to the insolent expansion of NATO towards these countries (NATO’s Drang nach Osten).[16]

Final remarks

There is a number of arguments made to support the standpoint that the relationship between Russia and the West after 1990 is best described as a New Cold War or the Cold War 2.0. as, in fact, the Cold War 1.0 never ended.[17]

In the end, I will express several basic conclusions in relations to the topic of contemporary Russian relations with the NATO, or better to say, to the debate of the main issue of present-day Russian foreign policy – between the West and herself:

  1. The post-Soviet Russia was at least until the 2008 Georgian Crisis politically very deeply involved in the Western system of international relations and cultural values that were basically giving to Moscow a status of the Western client partner on the international scene of the NATO’s World Order after the Cold War 1.0.
  2. A full victory of the Russian “Westernizers” up to the end of 1999 allowed them to further westernize Russia according to the pattern of the Emperor Peter the Great with the price of Russia’s inferiority and even servility in the international relations. For that reason, the West succeeded in the 1990s to encircle Russia with three rings of her enemies: the NATO at the West, the Muslim Central Asian states at the South and China at the South-East.
  3. The West was buying Russia’s inferiority in the 1990s at the international scene by keeping perfect economic relations with Moscow that was allowing Russia, especially her tycoons, to become enormously reach. These harmonious West-Russia political-economic relations were predicted to be broken only under two circumstances: A) If the Russian “Patriots” with take political power in Kremlin (what, in fact, happened from the very early of 2000), or B) If the West will introduce serious economic-political sanctions against Russia (what, actually, occurred since 2014).
  4. Up to now, concerning Europe, the South-East Europe experienced a full degree of the Washington-led NATO’s World Order policy as it is totally left to the Western hands by Moscow and the region is already incorporated into the NATO’s World Order as a part of the Western (the NATO & the EU) Cold War 2.0 concept of the Central and East Europe as a buffer zone against Russia.[18] Nowadays, the Republic of North Macedonia is on the agenda of the US’s punishment for any closer relations with Russia (the “Turkish Stream”). As it was in the case of Serbia in 1999, the US’ sponsored regional Albanians are the instrument of destabilization, in this case, of Macedonia as an overture to the territorial secession of the Albanian-populated West Macedonia which is going to be put, like Kosovo, under the NATO’s total occupation. Recently, the US’ administration publicly announced to put Serbia under the sanctions for Serbia’s signing economic agreement of cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union and for the baying from Russia a set of S-400 rocket launchers. Obviously, in the eyes of the policy planners in Washington, there is no space for the Russian serious influence in the Balkans. Russia’s answer to such a challenge is going to be seen.
Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.

Endnotes:

[1] M. S. Blinnikov, A Geography of Russia and Its Neighbors, New York−London: The Guilford Press, 2011.

[2] “Security means the ability of states and societies to maintain their independent identity and their functional integrity” [B. Buzan, People, States, and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, London: Longmans, 1991].

[3] See more in [P. Heenan, M. Lamontagne (eds.), The Russia & Commonwealth of Independent States Handbook, Chicago−London−New Delhi: Glenlake Publishing Company, Ltd, 2000].

[4] R. W. Mansbach, K. L. Taylor, Introduction to Global Politics, Second Edition, London−New York: Routledge, 2012, 574.

[5] About geopolitics of Russia and the West, see in [С. Перишић, Нова геополитика Русије, Београд: Медија центар Одбрана, 2015, 217−241].

[6] About the politics of destabilization from the Balkans to the Caspian Sea, see in [S. Bianchini (ed.), From the Adriatic to the Caucasus: The Dynamics of (De)Stabilization, Ravenna: Longo Editore Ravenna, 2001].

[7] About the BRICS, see in [E. D. Mansfield, N. Rudra (eds.), Economy of the BRICS Countries, I−III, World Scientific Pub Co Inc, 2019; É. Féron, J. Käkönen, G. Rached (eds.), Revisiting Regionalism and the Contemporary World Order: Perspectives from the BRICS and Beyond, Verlag Barbara Budrich, 2019].

[8] On Russia-China axis as a danger to the US’ foreign policy, see in [An Emerging China-Russia Axis? Implications for the United States in an ERA of Strategic Competition, U.S. Government, U.S. Senate, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2019].

[9] About the rising Chinese economy in global terms, see in [J. Bryan Starr, Understanding China: A Guide to China’s Economy, History, and Political Culture, New York: Hill and Wang, 2010; A. R. Kroeber, China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016].

[10] See more in [R. Weitz, The New China-Russia Alignment: Critical Challenges to U.S. Security, Praeger Security International, 2020].

[11] On B. Yeltsin and Russia of his time as a President, from the Western perspective, see in [B. Minayev, Boris Yeltsin: The Decade that Shook the World, London: Glagoslav Publications Ltd, 2014].

[12] About the Pax Americana, see in [G. Dorrien, Imperial Designs: Neo Conservatism and The New Pax Americana, London−New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2004; A. Parchami, “The Pax Americana Debate”, Hegemonic Peace and Empire: The Pax Romana, Britanica and Americana, London−New York: Routledge, 2009; A. Roncallo, The Political Economy of Space in The Americas: The New Pax Americana, London−New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014. On the remaking of the World Order, see in [S. P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization and The Remaking of World Order, London: The Free Press, 2002; H. Kissinger, World Order, Penguin Press HC, 2014]. On the post-Cold War 1.0’s the US-Russia relations up to the 2014 Ukrainian Crisis, see in [A. E. Stent, U.S.−Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014].

[13] About the “Kosovo precedent” and the ethnopolitical conflicts in the Caucasus, see in [A. Hehir (ed.), Kosovo, Intervention and Statebuilding: The International Community and the Transition to Independence, London-New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2010; V. B. Sotirović, “Kosovo and the Caucasus: A Domino Effect”, Српска политичка мисао (Serbian Political Thought), 41 (3), Belgrade: Institute for Political Studies, 2013, 231−241.

[14] See, for instance [R. E. Kanet, A. V. Kozhemiakin, (eds.), The Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, London−New York: Macmillan Publishers−St. Martin’s Press, 1997].

[15] R. F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of The Cuban Missile Crisis, W. W. Norton & Company, 1999; D. Munton, D. A. Welch, The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Concise History, Oxford−New York: Oxford University Press, 2006; M. Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on The Brink of Nuclear War, Borzoi Book, 2008; B. L. Pardoe, Fires of October: The Planned US Invasion of Cuba During The Missile Crisis of 1962, Fonthill Media Limited−Fonthill Media LLC, 2013.

[16] See more in [M. D. Nazemroaya, The Globalization of NATO, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 2012].

[17] R. E. Kanet (ed.), Russian Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 16−17.

[18] About the post-Cold War 1.0 Western supremacy in global politics and international relations, see in [S. Mayer, NATO’s Post-Cold War Politics: The Changing Provision of Security, London−New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014; K. Pijl, The Discipline of Western Supremacy: Modes of Foreign Relations and Political Economy, III, London−New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014]. About a typical example of the western (the US’) colony in the region, Kosovo-Metohija as a part of the Pax Americana, see in [H. Hofbauer, Eksperiment Kosovo: Povratak kolonijalizma, Beograd: Albatros Plus, 2009]. On the relations between the NATO and the European Union, see in [L. Simon, Geopolitical Change, Grand Strategy and European Security: The EU−NATO Conundrum, London−New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013]. About the history of a greater concept of East Europe between the Germans and the Russians, see in [R. Bideleux, I. Jeffries, A History of Eastern Europe. Crisis and Change, London−New York: Routledge, 1999; A. C. Janos, East Central Europe in the Modern World. The Politics of the Borderlands from Pre- to PostCommunism, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000].

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