A new cold war?


The crisis in Ukraine is increasingly taking a dangerous turn that some are warning could trigger a new cold war between Russia and the west. The crisis began with protests against the elected but widely considered corrupt government of former President Viktor Yanukovych when he plumped for closer ties to Russia rather than the European Union. The mediated compromise agreement between Yanukovych and the opposition in the streets on February 21, brokered by Germany, Poland and France, unravelled even before the ink was dry on it and this finally led to the ouster of the president and his flight to Russia, where he has been given protection. Meanwhile the Crimean peninsula where the Russian Baltic Fleet is stationed has been taken over by pro-Russian elements. Eastern Ukraine, overwhelmingly inhabited by people of Russian ethnic origin, could be the next pawn on the chessboard. The fracturing on ethnic and political lines of Ukrainian national unity between pro-west and pro-Russian groups spells either a breakup of the country or, as Russia may be trying to achieve, a federal solution that prevents Ukraine from turning wholesale from what Moscow sees as ‘a Ukraine that is not Russia’ into ‘a Ukraine in opposition to Russia’. Russia’s mobilisation of 150,000 troops after the Duma gave President Vladimir Putin permission to invade Ukraine if necessary to protect Russian co-ethnics, defend the Russian Fleet’s base in the Crimea, and ensure Ukraine does not become a hostile neighbour at the behest of the west has evoked a military mobilisation in Ukraine by the interim government that replaced Yanukovych. However, no one has any doubts that the Ukrainian armed forces are no match for Russia’s might. US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have warned Russia of the cost to be paid for its actions so far as well as if it invades Ukraine. These would include a likely cancellation of the impending G8 summit in Sochi in June, economic sanctions and a pullout of US and other western businesses from Russia. This ‘threat’ seems unlikely to deter Putin, who since his rise to power has been battling western attempts at encroachment and worse in the ‘near abroad’, Russia’s neighbours that are former Soviet states. Since the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, the west has felt free to carry out military and subversive interventions in a host of countries to bring about regime change that suits its interests. Georgia in 2008, the ‘colour revolutions’ in Eastern Europe, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Venezuela are prominent examples of direct and indirect military intervention or subversion in the name of humanitarian concerns or democracy. This unbridled western attempt to reshape the post-cold war world according to its lights has been the source of many conflicts, some of which are continuing. If only President Obama would reflect on the irony in his statement that “matters should be determined by the Ukrainian people”, considering that the people’s wishes were neither democratically determined nor given a fig for when the Ukrainian protestors, amongst whom neo-fascist extremists can be counted, were forcing a flawed but nevertheless elected government from office through militant street power.
The US-led west’s neo-imperialism through direct military intervention or subversion through paid, trained proxies on the streets is causing enough trouble all over the world. In the case of Ukraine, it could engender a new conflict and even the beginnings of a new cold war (if it has not already begun). The promise of peace, cooperation and progress after the end of the cold war has been dashed by western countries’ unabashed desire to subjugate the globe through military might and the power of capital. This new ‘empire’ is however riven by contradictions, struggle and conflict between the victims of such interventions and the cold war triumphalism of a seemingly unstoppable sole superpower and its European allies. History suggests the west may be overplaying its hand and threatening humanity the world over with the unbridled ambition of dominance that cannot but engender enormous new tensions and conflict in a war-weary world.  *

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