After the horrors of Kiev that resulted in dozens of victims, the Ukranian crisis has taken on major geopolitical dimensions. The crucial question, of course, is whether events in “Little Russia” – as Ukraine was once known – will lead to another cold war between East and West, albeit on a smaller scale. We will know soon enough.
The Cold War which ended in 1991 was not just the nightmare that is remembered by those whose memories are not to be relied on completely. During that period, economies grew by leaps and bounds, the welfare state was established in Western Europe and political authority was omnipotent in terms of variable factors that are at play today, such as international money markets and the fluctuations of the financial system. The Cold War also saw an unprecedented cultural blossoming.
Of course there were severe crises that nearly brought about another world war, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. But the major political leaders of the time – US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev – succeeded in restoring order and stability within just one week. The balance of terror demanded constraint and sagacity.
The collapse of communism stripped the Russian Federation of the protective belt of satellites it had under the USSR following the Warsaw Pact after the end of World War II. The biggest change was that Eastern Europe became a part of the US sphere of influence.
The current Russian president, Vladimir Putin – a child of the Soviet nomenclature – has for years expressed fears about the country becoming surrounded by unfriendly forces and foes. He saw the eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union as a threat to Russia. Whether he was right or wrong is insignificant. What matters is that he believes it. What’s more, in the age of globalization, Putin continues to think along the lines of the old balance of power. In this sense, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was correct when she said that Putin lives “in another world.”
Active by nature and having accepted that Russia will not become the major global force it once was, Putin is trying to elevate his country into a leading regional player and Ukraine has become the arena in which he wants to achieve this. We cannot know whether this mini cold war will work to Putin’s benefit or whether it will turn the entire West against Russia or whether it will affect relations between Washington and Europe. Whichever way, the ones that stand to get hurt the most are the people of Ukraine.