During its annual victory parade on Red Square, Russia not only presented new armament and a brand new battle tank (T-14 Armata), but it also demonstrated a new “Eastern Coalition”, notably China, Mongolia, the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, and even India. The message was clear: “This new constellation has been forced upon us and we are responding to it accordingly: we will not accept a unipolar world.”
The Dark Shadows of the 80ies
Recently, NATO accuses Russia for using Crimea as a stationary place for nuclear weapons, which rings the alarm bells of the former Cold War’s nuclear arms race. As Russia has initiated a new armament strategy, so will the West. That is the west’s reaction on Russia’s move and it seems like they have no better response – or do not intend to think more thoroughly of anything else. It looks like a hastily panic-like reaction without clear long-view perspectives – the same reaction used in the mid-1980ies, on the peak of the Cold War were every single miscommunication could have led to a massive escalation with incalculable consequences.
America’s Struggle for a Unipolar World
This could mean that the US is unclear about its general foreign policy approach. They certainly do not want Iraq or Afghanistan to repeat itself; in fact, the rise of IS and the war going on in the Middle East is a result of the US’ failed intervention and non-existing post-conflict resolution in Iraq. But most obvious, the US’ foreign policy has repeatedly been focused on short-term involvements rather than long-term planning, also with respective view on next year’s Presidential elections and geostrategic interests in the Middle East and other selected areas in the world.
Ukraine is considered as one of these selected areas. Not just as a potential future NATO member (if at all), but for geostrategic reasons – such as gas supplies and as a bridgehead to access to gas and oil fields in the Central Asian region. Even Europe knows it and is therefore indecisive in its actions towards Russia. The current power struggle on European soil between Russia and the US is last but not least another attempt of the US to prevent an equal competitor to arise and to challenge the US’ power in Europe or anywhere else in the world. Now, America is facing the return of an old adversary and for its own discomfort, it is an equal competitor.
The End of the End of History
When the Soviet Union was folded and the new Russian Federation took a turn into a capitalist democratic system, high ranked politicians and scholars like Francis Fukuyama believed this end of East-West confrontation to be the End of History, as the end of all the ideological dissents that marked the 20th century.
Even though it is not an ideological confrontation nowadays, it is a returned rivalry of the two dominating political and military superpowers. However, maybe it should be seen as a rivalry of two weakened superpowers: one is weakened economically and morally by its failures of the past and its lacking public support, the other one is suffering from harsh economic wrong decision, inner repressions against any political opposition, and external sanctions, and is therefore turning into a more aggressive foreign policy. No one is blameless, but for now, they are both turning back the wheels of time.
The Ticking Clock
As long as these tensions remain and neither side – neither the West, nor the East – steps back from its hardened position, a high amount of escalation potential will grow and the margins for mistakes and misunderstandings will become even thinner. Tensions are rising, heated debates are growing, and time is running out.