18 Apr 2022 2:04 pm
by Robert Bridge
In April 1947, the term ‘Cold War’ was first used to describe the geopolitical divide between the US and the Soviet Union.
The confrontation ended with the fall of the USSR. But was the end of tensions only in our imaginations?
While Washington and Moscow were invincible allies in the fight against Nazi Germany, the two ideological adversaries could no longer hide their mutual enmity when World War II drew to a close in 1945. After that, for half a century, a severe freeze swept the planet, and many feared it might end in nuclear disaster.
75 years ago this month coined Bertrand Baruch, American financier and statesman, used the term ‘Cold War’ to describe this long-lasting stalemate. Speaking to a delegation of US lawmakers, he said to his audience, as if anticipating the communist hate of the McCarthy years: “Let us not be fooled, we are in the midst of a cold war today. We find our enemies abroad as at home . Let’s never forget this: Our restlessness is at the heart of their success.”
It is widely agreed by historians that the Cold War began in 1947 with the so-called Truman Doctrine, a program of “enclosure” against America’s arch-enemy proposed by US diplomat George Kennan, and lasted until December 26, 1991, when the Soviet Union gave up the ghost. Others argue that it began as early as 1945, when Washington dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II.
For millions of people around the world, this was the beginning of the real Cold War, a real nightmare like in the movie Dr. Strangelove, in which two nuclear-armed camps were locked in an ideological battle over their respective -isms. In the US, as in the USSR, schoolchildren regularly participated in emergency drills (crouching under a wooden table, seemingly shielding from radiation) in preparation for the unthinkable.
The world has arguably never been closer to full-scale nuclear war than during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (known in Russia as the ‘Caribbean Crisis’), when US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, with nerve-wracking strides, walked out of an impasse without losing face. involving the removal of American missiles from Turkey and Soviet missiles from Cuba.
Thirty years later, the Soviet Union faded into the history books. It remains questionable, however, whether the Cold War followed her on this path or whether we are simply experiencing an extension of these dark times.
After the end of the Soviet Union, Russia faced the tremendous challenge of transitioning from a planned to a market economy. At the time, Russians and Americans put aside their past dislikes (personified by the easy-going relationship between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin) as Western advisors burst onto the scene to help reform the economy. Since then, the results of these efforts have been hotly debated.
Using the so-called “shock therapy” techniques of IMF-led liberalization, Russia abandoned price controls and government subsidies and privatized previously public assets through a system of “loans-for-shares.” The end result was, among other calamities, massive inflation, unemployment, endemic poverty, the rise of an oligarchic class, and an unprecedented rise in mortality that at least one study of ruthless liberalization has shown returned. Needless to say, this first instance of US-Russia cooperation after the collapse of the Soviet Union was not exactly a promising start. And it shouldn’t get any better.
The defining moment in modern US-Russia relations came in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Although Vladimir Putin was the world’s first head of state, US President George W. Bush called and assured him of Russia’s unconditional support, Washington returned the favor in a way Moscow would not soon forget. Just months later, on December 13, 2001, Bush formally announced that the US would withdraw from the Nuclear Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The ABM treaty, signed by Washington and Moscow in 1972, preserved strategic parity — and more importantly, peace — between nuclear powers, a sort of balancing act that has been described as “assured mutual annihilation.”
And what did the US do shortly after leaving the 30-year-old agreement? They began plans to deploy a sophisticated anti-ballistic missile system in Poland, just a stone’s throw from the Russian border. To which troops were transferred this year.
“The US Navy recently moved sailors to its newest base, a strategic facility in northern Poland that supports NATO’s European missile defense system,” reported Stars & Stripes in January. “Citation to operational security, NATO did not disclose how many personnel were deployed there nor … details of the facility’s size or structure.”
Last year led Mikhail Khodarenok, a retired Russian colonel, commented on RT what this system means for Russian and European security.
“The development of the Aegis land complex in Poland worries Russia,” wrote Khodarenok. “Here’s the problem. The Mark 41 launch system can be quickly modified and the SM-3 missiles replaced with Tomahawk ground-attack guided missiles.”
“What should Russia do in this situation when such a change in the land-based Aegis system poses a very real threat to its national security?” he asked.
But let no one think that Moscow has not been busy finding ways to respond to US and NATO efforts to establish a ballistic missile defense system in Eastern Europe. In fact, Moscow set about defeating the US missile defense systems, as did Washington to withdraw from the ABM treaty. These efforts paid off in ways the US probably did not anticipate.
In 2018, Putin gave a rather unorthodox State of the Union address, in which he spoke of the development of hypersonic missiles spokethat fly so fast that “missile defense systems are useless against them, absolutely pointless,” he said.
“No, nobody wanted to talk to us about the core of the problem [die US-Raketenabwehrsysteme in Osteuropa] and no one wanted to listen to us,” the Russian leader declared defiantly. “So listen now.”
Moscow’s concerns about the strategic military architecture erected in its “near abroad” are no secret. As early as 2007, Putin delivered a speech to the Munich Security Conference in which he stressed that NATO expansion “represents a serious provocation that is reducing the level of mutual trust.” And then he asked the rhetorical question: “Who is this expansion aimed at?”
At this point, many more pages could be filled with other areas of US-Russia relations that show that the two nuclear superpowers may each have survived the Cold War in their own way, but traces of it live on. From unproven allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election to Russia’s decision to intervene in Syria’s civil war against the Islamic State, tensions between the US and Russia are moving back to Cold War levels, and a bit continue.
And now, as hostilities in Ukraine threaten to spiral into something uncontrollable, it might be a good time to pray that the war will remain a cold war and not get hotter.
More on the subject – Kremlin responds to Clinton’s NATO statement
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of Midnight in the American Empire: How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. Bridge tweets under the username @Robert_Bridge.
Translated from the English.
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