The Beginning of a New Cold War
From the desk of Martin Helme on Wed, 2007-04-04 12:46
An article by H.E Mart Helme, Estonia’s ambassador to Russia 1996-1999
When last February the Russian president Vladimir Putin unleashed his chilling attack against America in a speech in Munich, he was really addressing the European Union, or “old Europe” to be exact, and most humiliatingly its most influential state, Germany.
Barely a day earlier, TV screens had been inundated with promotional clips about the cooperation between Russia and the EU in the days of Germany’s ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It was natural that the present chancellor, Angela Merkel, is all for emphasizing the need to preserve the dialogue with Russia.
So why did Putin humiliate and aggravate his friends and hosts in such a way? Simple.
Putin used a well-known technique of Zen-Buddhism’s shock therapy against senile, indecisive, spoiled and greedy Europe.
Having used his prior bully tactics – gas attacks, political assassinations, obstruction in the Middle-East, etc. – to demonstrate his brutality, resolve and fearlessness in the face of the New Cold War, Putin set the European Union on a crossroads: either Russia or America, either gas and Europe’s readiness for deals or confrontation over economy and security issues with obvious consequences.
The fact that “old Europe” is in a depressing silence shows that Putin’s message has hit home. Only the representatives of the United States and some of the Northern and Mid-European countries, i.e those who feel that they will have to face Russia’s threats anyway, have raised their voices in protest.
But why has Putin suddenly turned so active and audacious? It is wrong to seek the answer in Russia’s upcoming elections. Sure, they are a background but nevertheless an unimportant one. The continuing inflation of the prices of raw materials is also more or less a background as it gives Moscow more money to carry out its plans. However, the primary reason lies elsewhere. Basically in the fact that the increasing hunger for energy in the Asian giants has created an alternative for Russia, one that liberates Moscow from the mutual trade dependence with European countries and gives it trump cards for political extortion.
Indeed, in collaboration with China, India and other Asian countries, Russia can completely satisfy its own need for consumer goods and at the same time export all – and I mean all – of its produced and exportable raw materials to the Asian Tigers, leaving European foundries in Germany and its neighbours dry. In other words Russia no longer needs Europe.
Moscow gets added confidence thanks to the fast development of relations between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan – all countries that are part of the Shanghai Association founded in 2001. This syndicate, where Mongolia is an observer country, is the embryo of an extremely powerful geopolitical consortium. It engulfs two thirds of the Eurasian continent, has 1.5 billion people and a remarkable portion of the world’s raw materials. This alliance, not just Russia, is the main challenger to the block of the United States and its allies. Moreover, one has to add to this the hostility of the Islamic world towards the US (and Western civilisation in general). This is a force that Washington does not have the luxury of ignoring.
But who are still allies of the USA in the present anti-American world? Which countries can Washington still rely on? Primarily the Anglo-Saxon nations (Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New-Zealand) and “new Europe” – the East-European countries, including the Baltic States, who have conterminously felt the threat emanating from Russia.
In Asia, the two new power blocks fight over India. In Europe they fight for old Europe’s allegiance. As an adept prostitute, old Europe is flirting with both sides. Putin’s attack on Europe was meant to force Berlin, Paris, Rome, Brussels and all the others who are situated to the west of the former Iron Curtain to decide whether the European Union wants to choose the gas coming from Russia – and thus become a vassal of a considerably weaker Russia than that of the Cold War period – or continue as an appendage of the United States. The fact that Europe is unable to form an independent and monolithic centre of power is apparently clearer to Moscow than to Brussels, which is still living in the illusions of a common foreign and security policy and a European Constitution.
From the point of view of Eastern Europe, it would of course be welcome if new Europe remained allied with America. But be that as it may, these nations can no longer follow a strategy of silent reliance on a non-existent European solidarity. New Europe must stop putting its trust in the EU’s dream of a common foreign and military policy and opt for a clear security policy oriented to the United States.
This orientation, besides being the only one offering potential security, might tilt the Western-Europeans, who have wound up sitting on Russia’s gas syringe, a few millimetres to decide in favour of a real, not merely a verbal, transatlantic coalition.
We need a new Truman doctrine. We need a new “Berlin wall” against neo-Stalinist Russia and its anti-Western allies. This time the Baltics cannot be left to the East of it. ‘Old Europe” has to realize that the attempts at democratising Russia have failed. The efforts at integrating Russia with the West have failed. Only one option remains: Russia, which is threatening world peace, must be opposed through a New Cold War.
Submitted by Flemish American on Sat, 2007-04-07 20:05.
It would be safe to say that many Europeans get it wrong when thinking about Russia because they think since Russia is on their side of the pond, they must think more like them.
It would be safer to say that, from a nationalistic point of view, Russians tend to think more like Americans. After having a joke of a leader in Boris "Buy me a drink" Yeltzin, Putin has put Russian back on the political map and many Russians are proud to be Russian again.
The modern era has revealed how much America and Russia need each other and, although there will be much political sparring and even a few nasty words, I am näive enough to believe they will still work more often towards the same goals even if they do so from opposite ends.
It might be true that Russia and America are both a bit tired of a European Union that has huge potential, but lacks a central power-center to be relied on in "Crunch Time". The U.S. recognized this by wooing individual nations to stand behind her Iraq policy rather than expecting the E.U. to act as one. In fact, they counted on the E.U. not working together since a single stance on Iraq would surely have worked against the U.S. plans. Russia is taking advantage of it with their proposed North Sea Pipeline that will bypass and isolate the European Union members in Poland and the Baltic States to deliver gas to European Union member Germany
Putin might be a hard-liner and will do things his way no matter what the international community might think, but he has brought pride back to the Russian people and the world cares again what Russia is doing. Despite new, controversial pipeline routes and raising of gas prices to neighboring countries who try thumbing their nose at Moscow, the Kremlin is still interested in maintaining relations and influence in these former Soviet states and is merely reminding them who Mother Russia is. The Bear might have lost a few fingers and toes in the 1990's, but after an extended hibernation, she is back with her teeth and claws intact and re-establishing her place as a world power.
Lord, grant me the strength to change the things I can;
the serenity to deal with the things I cannot change;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Submitted by valknot on Sat, 2007-04-07 03:46.
U.S.A was the worst thing to happen to Europeans, we don't need it, they have nothing we need.
Russia has - mainly it's people, Europeans who haven't been deracinated.
Empire or Vassal?
Submitted by dchamil on Fri, 2007-04-06 08:36.
marcfrans remarks that America is not an empire since other "vassal" nations are not making fealty payments to it. In fact, the payments are going the other way, from America to foreign countries. They are called "foreign aid". In Roman times, they would be called "tribute".
Submitted by Frank Lee on Fri, 2007-04-06 07:24.
The most recent figures I've seen, using PPP, place American per capita GDP at about USD 42,000 and the major European countries' GDP figures at roughly USD 28,000. That makes the US figure 50 percent higher than the European figures.
My citing the large numbers of illiterate immigrants (whom I welcome) in no way denies the existence of more educated immigrants in addition.
I agree there is no American "empire," which is why I used scare quotes myself.
Submitted by marcfrans on Fri, 2007-04-06 03:21.
@ Frank Lee
If you will permit, I would like to make several corrections to your posting.
-- The per capita income in the US is today about 30% higher than in the major European countries you mentioned (not 50%), if one uses PPP-exchange rates (i.e. based on purchasing power parities) which would be the proper way to make the comparison. The gap may be somewhat smaller if current (volatile) market exchange rates are used. Over the last decade or so, the gap has been widening with Germany, France, and especially with Italy, but not significantly with Britain, I believe.
-- The share (and number) of "illiterates" among immigrants in the USA is certainly much lower than you seem to think, and the US also continues to attract the lion share of 'great talent' in the world, including from Europe.
-- There is no such thing as an "American empire" in the normal sense of the word "empire". While American influence may be different in different places, there are no 'vassals' paying regular 'fealty' payments to it. But there undoubtedly are a number of 'dependents' in the world who would not survive without it.
Those European 'elites' (and their media mouthpieces) who want America to "decline", do so out of spite and of ideological confusion. It shows the victory of narrowmindedness over historical knowledge, and it is extremely foolish. Their anti-Americanism will destroy western civilisation as we have known it for the past two hundred years. In the end, it will destroy them. We, no doubt, agree on this last point.
Declining American Empire
Submitted by Frank Lee on Thu, 2007-04-05 22:23.
Despite absorbing nearly a million illiterate immigrants every year for the past three decades, the United States has a per capita GDP nearly 50% higher than those of Germany, France, Italy, or the United Kingdom. And the gap is only widening. In the Kosovo War, American pilots flew 95% of the sorties, though it was the Europeans who were about to be flooded with another wave of refugees -- and the United States is on the other side of the world. The American "empire" is declining only in the sense that some European elites want to pretend that it is declining, which is all that matters if you are solipsistic enough and don't care about the real world -- the world of observable fact. Which brings me to the declining European scientific community . . .
Submitted by marcfrans on Thu, 2007-04-05 17:03.
The Kapitein lives in Cloud-Cuckoo land. If his attitudes and opinions are representative of current European 'elites' on the 'Right' (forget about the hopelessly naive Left), the future of the 'West', and thus the world too, is again very dark.
1) Firstly, Western Europe is indeed still a great economic power, but NOT a military one. It does not currently have the physical capability for significant power projection beyond the immediate geographic area of Europe (without the American NATO assets). Moreover, to be a great military power would require not only physical military assets, but also a political willingness to use those assets (and that is almost totally absent today). Secondly, Russia may well be only "a regional power" today, but it is currently one of only two states with the capacity to destroy the planet. Its "self-interest" does indeed not equate with "imperialism", but the current mafia running Russia has a very different view of Russian "self-interest" than the Kapitein, and actively seeks political control of its 'near-abroad' (former soviet republics). Thirdly, Europeans are NOT "free to retaliate" in a trade war. Russia is not 'dependent' on European 'trade' the way Europe is dependent on Russian energy.
2) The Kapitein claims (correctly) that Russia's alliances in Asia are "merely out of convenience and ...selfserving", but somehow seems to think (wishfully) that any alliance with 'Europe' would be any different. Head in the sand vis-a-vis the current state of Russian 'morality'!
3) Since the Shanghai-accord, Russia no longer needs Europe the way it did in the 1990's. And its ruling clique does not care about "remaining Russian" the way the Kapitein cares about race and ethnicity. It cares about power in the moment.
4) Yes, European and American interests are "harmonious". But only if you assume that Europeans can still understand that their long-term interest lies in the maintenance of genuine freedom of speech and of individual liberty (political and economic). The notion that "co-opting the Russian federation into the European Union" would advance those interests is totally blind to current realities in the Russian Federation, where 'free' media have virtually disappeared and political opponents of the regime are also regularly 'disappearing'. Russia is indeed not exactly "neo-stalinist", but today it has truly become a mafia-state. However, it must be said that this is greatly preferable to the previous dangerous ideological (communist) regime with aspirations of world domination.
5) Russia is indeed not a direct "threat to world peace" today, but it is an indirect one. In various ongoing geopolitical threats it acts as an obstacle to world peace by cynically relying on others to do the heavy lifting and collecting short-term benefits for itself. Russia is in essence further undermining the limited effective 'rule of law' there currently is at the international level. However, there is a 'silver lining' in this. By strengthening 'state sovereignty', regardless of the internal conditions in the world's worst tirannies and dictatorships, it is advancing the day that the Western public will finally again come to realise that its own safety can only be found in a very strict interpretation of state sovereignty everywhere. That means that 'rulers' everywhere - even in 'failed' and chaotic states - will be (militarily) punished for the misdeeds that 'originate' from their territories (unless they truly cooperate). It will be the end of wasted western official "foreign aid", it will be the end of nation-building efforts (like today in Irak, or Lebanon, Congo, Kosovo, etc...) It will be a time of accountability and adherence to the clarity of the simple dictum of "You are with us, or against us".
6) Finally, the Kapitein's belief that Russia will eventually deal with its "unruly minority" is like his regular 'predictions' about Europeans doing the same with theirs: it is pure wishful thinking. It does not correspond to what one can empirically observe on a daily basis in Europe today.
Russia's "security umbrella"...
Submitted by the new european on Thu, 2007-04-05 15:58.
And how would this Russian "security umbrella" look like? Total submission to the Kremlin, dictatorships like in Belarus, no free media, no human rights...
Just like in the times of the old Soviet empire. And since when is the US declining???
Choosing for Russia would be logical....
Submitted by LibertyLad on Thu, 2007-04-05 11:56.
In my opinion, if "Old Europe" has to choose, it would be better off with an alliance with Russia. If Europe must have a "security umbrella", Russia can provide that as adequate or better then the US plus Russia is a energy-providing powerhouse. If Europe continues to orient itself towards the declining US empire, it could well be left out in the cold, both literally and figuratively speaking.
Submitted by oiznop on Thu, 2007-04-05 13:03.
Just why is the U.S. declining? And if Russia is such a dynamo for energy production, how does this help it's population delcine? I am curious to here your response.
Submitted by Kapitein Andre on Thu, 2007-04-05 08:14.
Has anyone considered that Mr. Helme's biography might influence his perspective on Russian foreign policy? Estonia was forcefully annexed by both Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union until achieving independence recently, and its Russian minority (26%) is a legacy of colonization, a reminder of past grievances and a hindrance to Estonians' national self-determination.
Helme: "Having used his prior bully tactics – gas attacks, political assassinations, obstruction in the Middle-East, etc. – to demonstrate his brutality, resolve and fearlessness in the face of the New Cold War, Putin set the European Union on a crossroads: either Russia or America, either gas and Europe’s readiness for deals or confrontation over economy and security issues with obvious consequences."
Firstly, Russia is neither willing nor able to enter another Cold War; while Western Europe is an economic and military Great Power, Russia is now a regional power. Secondly, Russian self-interest does not constitute sinister attempts at imperialism. Thirdly, if Russia launches a trade war against Europe, Europeans are free to retaliate.
Helme: "Basically in the fact that the increasing hunger for energy in the Asian giants has created an alternative for Russia, one that liberates Moscow from the mutual trade dependence with European countries and gives it trump cards for political extortion."
Europe remains Russia's only natural ally; relationships with China, India and others are merely out of convenience and are self-serving. Moreover, given that Russia is undergoing Islamic colonization, no Russian nationalist would allow for the opportunity to undergo Chinese colonization as well.
Helme: "In other words Russia no longer needs Europe."
It does if it wishes to remain Russian.
Helme: "Primarily the Anglo-Saxon nations (Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New-Zealand)."
These will not remain "Anglo-Saxon" for much longer.
Helme: This orientation, besides being the only one offering potential security, might tilt the Western-Europeans, who have wound up sitting on Russia’s gas syringe, a few millimetres to decide in favour of a real, not merely a verbal, transatlantic coalition.
But are European and American interests harmonious? What if the Russian Federation can be co-opted into the European Union?
Helme: "We need a new Truman doctrine. We need a new “Berlin wall” against neo-Stalinist Russia and its anti-Western allies."
Firstly, the Russian Federation is not neo-Stalinist. Due to the absence of the necessary political and legal structures to facilitate liberal democracy and an effective market economy, Russia requires a degree of authoritarian leadership.
Helme: "This time the Baltics cannot be left to the East of it."
There is no Iron Curtain to which the Baltic republics could be east of.
Helme: " ‘Old Europe” has to realize that the attempts at democratising Russia have failed. The efforts at integrating Russia with the West have failed. Only one option remains: Russia, which is threatening world peace, must be opposed through a New Cold War."
Russia will integrate on its own terms. To hasten this process significant, well-managed and concentrated investment from the West is necessary to make the Russian economy interdependent with that of Europe. Russia is not a threat to "world peace," rather it is pursuing a unilateralist policy designed to maximize its economic gain while keeping a lid on Muslim agitation. Neither Putin nor most Russians would permit the Islamization of Russia, however, Spengler at the Asia Times believes the Russians are biding their time before moving against their unruly minority.
Submitted by oiznop on Thu, 2007-04-05 13:05.
A hot war with the Islamos, and another cold war with the Russians. Can anyone say "Book of Revelations?"
new europe is struggling hard
Submitted by the new european on Thu, 2007-04-05 06:40.
look at what is happening in Ukraine right now. If that's not a proof of Russia's long arm and of EU's indecisiveness..and the similarities at the Eastern border of the EU and neighboring Romania are pretty striking.
more on Transatlantic Politics
Putin is in bed.....
Submitted by oiznop on Wed, 2007-04-04 13:13.
....with the Iranians and is an ex-KGB/Old School Communist hardliner.....I am not surprised by any of this......I don't know about you people, but this new alligence between the Russians and Iran is most concerning......