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Cold war resurrected

Dec 1, 2023 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish

Thirty-two years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed and with it, the Cold War that had lasted almost half a century, ended; or so we thought. When one looks at what is happening around the globe today, one has the sense that the world is still divided into competing camps, only it is not communism vs the democratic west, but rather between a small number of authoritarian belligerent states, and the rest of the free world.

We are beginning to realize that it was not communism that spurred the Cold War, but a form of totalitarianism that had existed in Russia for over five centuries. What happened in Russia and Eastern Europe in the twentieth century may have have been categorized as communism, but it was just a continuation of a tradition of tyranny and conquest that had dominated most of Russia’s history.

The same may be said of the situation in Asia where autocratic dynasties have ruled for millennia, never mind centuries. The current leader of China, Xi Jinping, is but the latest in a long line of absolutist Chinese emperors that have sought to dominate Asia since time immemorial.

There is also a third force that is playing a major role in destabilizing the world, and that is the Islamic fundamentalists that seek to reverse much of the political and social progress of the past several centuries and create a world order ruled by Sharia law. There are a handful of countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa that are under the thumb of reactionary leaders that have a virulent antipathy against the supposed “decadence” and “immorality” of the western world, and view it is their holy mission to destroy it.

Because of the well-known though warped principle that “any enemy of my enemy must be my friend”, these states are supported and financed by both the Russians and the Chinese, who view them as their natural allies against the U.S., the EU, NATO and the rest of the free-world democracies.

So what does the current cold war look like? The primary instigator and catalyst is, of course Russia, which still maintains the delusional hope and dream to dominate the world. Aside from direct brutal aggression such as it has demonstrated against Ukraine, it is also a major supplier of arms, technology and funding for terrorist states and groups throughout the third world. These include such rogue states as Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Iran and many of the petty dictators and terrorist groups in Africa, as well as fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas. It actively seeks to attain its strategic objectives primarily through military means.

China also provides such support, but it tends to do so more discretely, and relies more on long term economic tactics to exert its influence. As a primary global economic power, it is less inclined to use overt military means, and relies more on economic levers of power to influence world events in its favour. Nonetheless, it continues to view the western world as a competitor and antagonist, and it too, has not given up in its own imperialistic ambitions, though it eschews the more primitive and aggressive tactics of its problematic friend and ally Russia. In fact, I am firmly of the belief that if Russia ever descends into turmoil or disintegration, it would not hesitate to step in and take over Russia’s eastern territories if the opportunity presented itself.

The fundamentalist Islamic forces are the unpredictable joker in the pack, since their behaviour has largely been unpredictable and irrational. The recent Hamas attack on Israel is a prime example of this. They are supported by a number of oil-rich Middle East Arab states, as well as Russia and China, though these sponsors of theirs cannot be said to exert as much control as they would like over what these terrorist groups do.

There is one other growing major power that remains somewhat of a question mark, and that is India. Although not a direct ally of Russia’s, it has not hesitated to take advantage of Russia’s war on Ukraine by buying sanctioned Russian oil and petroleum products at sharply discounted prices. It has also had a troubled relationship with its neighbour China, so it tends to sit on the fence as the other major world powers vie for either military or economic world dominance. At best, we can look upon it as an opportunistic “neutral” country.

Bottom line, what we have in the world today is a new three-way cold war between Russia, China and the US and European led free world. Once again, we are living in “interesting times”.

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