I asked this a few days ago as the rhetoric aimed against Russia began to ramp up to unusual levels after the tragic loss of MH17.
Now it seems that no less a figure than POTUS, President Obama himself feels the need to tell us that “This Is Not A New Cold War”.
Oh that’s OK then, thanks for reassuring us that we are worrying over nothing. As it’s you saying it we know it must be true, oh wait, aren't you telling us that you are imposing yet more sanctions on Russia and calling for yet more sanctions at the same time you say it’s not a new cold war!
So what is it then?
Looking at the world I see a lot happening, some of it fits together; some of it doesn't yet fit or may be something completely different. But there is a fairly clear picture forming and that is the significant change in the orientation of world power.
The 21st century is shaping up to be the time of the East not the West and the ripples of this are spreading everywhere. A lot of events seem to be linked to the reaction by the Western World to this change and how they are fighting against it.
For decades the UN, the IMF and the great and only superpower ruled unchallenged. The cold war was over; China and Russia were reduced to mere regional powers.
But the world is changing and with that comes a swing in global power.
BRICS is a prime example. Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. 41% of the world’s population, 20% of the entire worlds GDP. The alliance of these five nations dwarfs NATO which speaks for a paltry billion people. Vast reserves of resources (Russia and China) that are considerably greater than those available in country to the western nations.
The fact that Putin had just returned from a meeting where BRICS declared its intention to rival the IMF when the Malay plane went down and was immediately blamed on Russia is, of course, just a coincidence.
Now despite what the Prez is telling us, I believe what we are seeing in fact IS a new cold war. Between on one side the old Imperial powers now reformed into NATO or the EU and on the other side the old enemies now allied with rising powers that refuse to toe the US line.
The US has been steadily switching its military focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific; the perception is that the military threat from Russia is much lower than that of China with its steady military build up. Notice over the last year and more the strong focus in the media of stories about how China has been massively building up its forces. Story after story and report after report about how threatened the Far Eastern Nations are by rampant Chinese expansionism and military build ups.
Then, suddenly, the focus moved to Russia. The vote in Crimea was causing a lot of talking by the chattering classes and there had been a few token sanctions but the fighting between the Kiev loyalists and the pro Russian separatists was going on with a few news reports often buried in the middle pages.
The sanctions were generally laughed at, in fact we had reports of Russian Oligarchs complaining they were NOT on the initial sanction lists.
Then we have the BRICS announcement and suddenly hundreds of men, women and children are dead. A second Malaysia Airlines wide body has gone down, hundreds dead including a hundred AIDs researchers.
I’m not going to go into probabilities about how extremely unlikely it is that Malaysia Airlines has lost two planes within months and these are the only major aircraft crashes this year or the odds of one plane carrying so many doctors being hit when scores of other aircraft were not attacked.
What I am speaking of here is that without so much as a shred of hard evidence that has been shown to anyone and with reams of blatant fakes Russia is being blamed and punished for doing something no one can even prove they did.
Consider the constant and angry rhetoric, harsh words and comments from statesmen and governments directed at Russia, sanctions after sanctions and an ever increasing level of calls for unity against Russia. For something that the US, the EU and the UK are unwilling or unable to prove they did.
Now look at the Middle East and Gaza, day by day out TV screens are filled with images of death and destruction. We have live digital TV showing us bombs exploding shells falling, absolutely no doubt as to who is doing the shooting. Yet as much as Israel has the right to defend its people from threat they have now killed far more civilians that the Pro Russian Separatists are reported to have killed and yet the sound of the West’s criticism is tumbleweeds blowing in the wind.
Russia is subject to threat after threat and sanction after sanction for something no one seems willing or able to prove they did and yet no one will say Boo to Israel.
If the West actually cared to help with the Gaza situation they could do so, but they do nothing but talk and make idle threats and sound bites for the TV. However closer to home and we see a very different situation.
We are seeing a massive campaign to demonise Russia and Putin. The man is a nasty piece of work but a lot of time and effort is being put into making Russia itself to be the threat. Russia nationalists, Russian fascists, the Russians are coming.
Did you catch the bit about violations of the Nuclear arms limitations not long ago. The Russians are building new nukes, the Russians are pointing nukes at us, the Russians are threatening us. We have to act before they wipe us out.
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!
It’s getting hard to hear over the sound of all the sabres being rattled.
A new cold war, with battles fought by proxy, just like in the old cold war. Russia is seen, mistakenly I think, as the toothless old bear that can be attacked most easily. So we see the Ukraine, a proxy war.
The urgency and demand to bomb Syria made little sense at the time. Why was Dave and the rest so anxious to launch a bombing campaign against Assad, they claimed to reduce his ability to use the Chemical weapons that had not, at the time, been proved to have been used by him. Such strikes would have removed him from power and reduced Syria to the same level of chaos that is now Libya. Syria was and is an Ally of Russia and a port it can use in the Middle East.
Think of the many many reports that suddenly appeared as to why we should bomb Syria, which have now been forgotten, the same people so desperate to save those poor suffering people Assad was bombing now all but ignored.
Counterpoint this almost exactly the same situation minus the gas where a Western Ally is bombing the hell out of its enemy in the middle of a city, not a word.
At the time the whole thing made no sense, why was Cameron so desperate to start bombing. Now it makes far more sense as part of a long term pattern by the West to box in Russia and weaken BRICS.
The latest round of stronger sanctions. Embargoes on finance and trade. Telling the western Oil companies who do business with Russia to stop, stopping banks getting finance from the west.
As important and powerful as these all sound they are yet more sound bites. Those Oil companies are providing the Oil and gas that is heating European homes.
Stopping any military trade, well apart from any existing deals so the French still get to sell those two warships and get their billion Euros. Military trades of the size that nations get involved in tend to take many months to arrange, new deals are hardly going to be springing up next week. Even then, where is Russia going to sell its tanks and planes, well apart from Syria or Egypt or other middle eastern countries or far eastern countries or the eastern European countries or India that continue to buy Russian. As for Europe, I’m sure that with four or five Billion Euros at stake the trade will continue in some form or another, lots of shipments via third countries as usual.
So the sanctions are impressive and yet also less effective than they are made out to be. Any truly powerful sanctions would hurt Europe as much as they hurt Russia and anything that pushed Putin to turn of the gas would probably cause a mini recession across the Euro zone. Or perhaps not so mini given the ongoing fragility of the Euro.
Why then are we hearing so much jingoism, why so much sabre rattling, why the contestant official statements from the UK and US and EU against Russia, why the steady stream of warnings, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”.
Why am I seeing and hearing the sort of things that would normally be used to prepare a nation for some big event or war, why is the Threat of Russia being made so overbearing and omnipresent. It’s almost as if we were being prepared for launching an attack against this clear and present danger.
But to what end. NATO cannot send more than token forces into Ukraine and actually fight. The combat aircraft in the Baltic states that are NATO members are a token, hardly enough to stand off an attack by a few hundred Russia fighters and bombers but enough to create justification for threats and yet more sabre rattling.
NATO is predominantly a military Alliance between the Western European nations and the US. But despite the fact that it is a multi nation military alliance well over half its actual military spending comes from the United States. Most NATO members provide no more than a token force when compared to the US.
Most NATO nations have been running down their armed forces over the years. Most fail to meet the minimum levels of military spending required for them to be NATO members, but aside from the US mentioning it from time to time no one else seems to care.
The vast military bases designed to act as staging areas and logistics bases for the fight against the Soviet Union are in West Germany. Poland is a NATO member but hardly has the infrastructure to base or supply division after division of NATO troops.
NATO simply lacks the logistics reach to operate in the Ukraine, if push comes to shove they could fight IN Poland with several hundred miles of logistics running back into Germany. But to go hundreds of miles further east, their supply lines would be immense and extremely vulnerable to attack. Any NATO force going into the Ukraine to fight Russia would be doing so at the end of a very long supply chain and facing Russian troops who would be operating from the Crimean bases or from just over the border.
Only a complete and utter moron would consider military action that far away.
On sea and in the air you have the same situation. The entire European navy could sail into the Baltic or black sea and would last about two hours, that being the time it would take the Russians to stop laughing and then launch wave after wave of anti shipping missiles from both land and air. Remember the UK fleet doesn’t have enough missiles to equip all its ships.
By air NATO airfields are a long long way away and Russia has a lot of military airfields along its borders, same situation as NATO aircraft out of fuel and at the end of a long flight face Russian planes that took off a few minutes before.
But worse than all of this is that something like half the military strength of NATO would not be there because the US would not be there, Obama is talking the talk but any walking he may be doing is either in the far east or on the golf course.
The vaunted technological advantages of NATO are less of a factor when you have a significant numeric advantage AND the home ground advantage.
NATO is more than capable of defending Western Europe from Russia, any attempt by Russia to attack Poland or any country west would be a very messy failure because NATO can respond to such an attack from its home bases. What NATO cannot do is defend the Ukraine or even worse attack Russia.
So I think the likelihood of any fighting between NATO and Russia is about zero in Europe. The Ukraine will continue to fight its civil war but even if Russia does intervene blatantly in the East what is NATO going to do, only if Russia is stupid enough to push into the Kiev controlled west and therefore come into range of Poland will NATO stir. No one is insane enough to create a situation where a nuclear response becomes viable and that’s about the only way NATO or Russia could threaten the other side’s core nations.
The rest of the world now, that’s a very different story. Western intervention everywhere you look. Any nation that either is or could be siding with those dirty Reds, if its small enough to be attacked then sooner or later it will be. Special forces advisors everywhere there is fighting going on. Russia and china trying to make new friends, the west will be there trying to stop them.
Proxy wars, nations or groups being armed and equipped to fight the enemy superpower. Small nations allied to the enemy being attacked or, like Syria just barely not being bombed till the government is overthrown.
The rhetoric may be the war on terror but a lot of those nations being targeted are anti west and therefore candidates for some friendly Russians to arrive providing training and weapons.
Despite what Obama says, it sure looks like a cold war to me.