United States – Russia relations: Beginning of a new Cold War ?

The term “Cold war” can be analysed against the backdrop of a series of hostilities between the United States and USSR, which  stemmed from the basic ideological differences and functioning of these states in the global political hierarchy. This phenomenon in global politics took its shape during 1945 and  came to an end in 1991 by the collapse of the USSR.

This long drawn enmity between the socialist USSR and the capitalist USA  later reflected in the relationship between the successor of USSR; Russia and the United States of America.  The relation between Russia and USA being the one built around trust witnessed major changes. Russia, apparently the friendlier one than its predecessor, started to distrust the United States from the  point when it started to realise the American ambitions towards the European continent, especially for the eastern part.

The current world order is multi-polar which is marked by its pluralistic character in the power politics represented by multiple states who are ambitious in their own sphere of influence. The American idea of playing the role of a global police is not over yet even though the world is changing and seeing a shift from the unipolar world order to the multipolar structure. The ideas of Woodrow Wilson that stated that  “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty”1 , must be taken into consideration when we look into the strategic patterns  of the current US policymakers. While Wilson tried to make international relations more open and transparent, the current US acts intend a complete control of world politics by re-establishing unipolarity similar to  the last two decades.

 Transition of global politics after the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the shift of global politics with the United States as the center, but after the 2000s Russia was being seen as a post cold war threat to the US hegemony in  global politics. The Wilsonian idea of Russia being “a fit partner for a league of honour” (Woodrow Wilson, “Safe for Democracy” speech, 2 April 1917)) has been put to question  by the current United States foreign policy, which has pushed Russia into the enmity of the cold war era. The current tension between the USA and Russia had its seeds since the first half of the 20th century, when world leaders like Winston Churchill propagated the idea of defending  democracy which Europe fought for when  Soviet influence was spreading all across the eastern and western European states. Churchill commented “Whatever conclusions may be drawn from these facts- and facts they are – this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is it one which contains the essentials of permanent peace.

The Safety of the world requires a new unity in Europe.”2 . This idea helped in the formation of NATO in Europe to prevent the Soviet expansion. However, it has maintained its relevance even today. 

The reflection of the cold war between the USA and USSR can be seen in the recent events of world politics too.. The involvement of USA and Russia in Syria coupled with the Russian Missile systems. They were installed and weaponised in different parts of the world like Syria and the US too installed missile systems in Romania and Turkey that were aimed at Moscow.

Beginning of the a Cold War?

This bears resemblance  to the events of the cold war.. Moreover, the alleged Russian involvement in the US elections can also be seen as a part of this tension. Infact, the expulsion tactics of expelling the diplomats is a cold war strategy which had never disappeared from the Russian-American relations. Although the fall of USSR and war in Iraq have led us to think ofFrancis Fukuyama’s end of history, where the liberal world order based on democracy and human rights would know no alternative3 . The gradual fall of western hegemony and its ideals provokes us to discuss Solzhenitsyn’s speech in Harvard, where he gave a new insight through constructive criticism of civilisation which is in distress and weakened by materialism4.

Biden government’s decision to expand NATO towards the east by joining Ukraine comes from this distress that the USA has in its existential crisis, where there is clash between American identity and values and Russian Foreign Policy and National values. In addition to this, the USA was feeling a crisis in its role as there was no perceived enemy on the world stage. This current situation in Ukraine was predicted by George Kennan in 1997 where he described that “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American Policy in the post-cold-war era.”5. The current situation that has evolved due to the Russian Special Military Operations in Ukraine will add to the tensions that were existing between the USA and Russia.

Moreover the economic sanctions and embargoes that have been slammed on Russia will accelerate this situation which will lead to a situation, where we will witness an evolution of a new cold war, which will not only destabilise the European continent but also destabilize the entire world in which multiple powerful nation states will start implementing its own ambitions, essentially too futile for the benefit of the world order.

  1. Woodrow Wilson, “Safe for Democracy” speech, 2 April 1917 

  2.  Winston Churchill, “The Sinews of Peace,” 5 March 1946 

  3.  Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest, summer 1989 

  4.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “A World Split Apart — Commencement Address Delivered at Harvard University, June 8, 1978 

  5.  George F. Kennan, “A Fateful Error,” The New York Times, 7 February 1997 

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