When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, there was a great promise for increased peace between the West and Russia. However, over the last decade, tensions have risen that haven’t been seen since the beginning of the Cold War.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig, calls this tension the New Cold War, and does not see it dissipating anytime soon.
Koenig discussed the New Cold War in a presentation Thursday, Oct. 27, in Communications Facility room 125.
In his presentation, Koenig spoke about the rise in tensions between Russia and the West, which have dramatically increased in the last decade. He also discussed the potential risks of the New Cold War and ways that the conflict can be de-escalated.
Numerous examples show relations with Russia are weak. Some of these include U.S. opposition to both Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the invasion of eastern Ukraine as well as Russian cyberattacks, including attacks with the potential to affect the U.S. election, Koenig said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been less successful economically, but politically he has managed to retain his popular image, Koenig said.
“We should not panic, but we should be on our guard.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig
“By playing on Russia’s wounded pride and nationalist traditions, using control of the popular media and a heavy dose of repression using his security forces, which are much more resurgent than they have been for years, Putin has been able to bolster his personal support,” Koenig said.
While Putin may be gaining support from Russian citizens in terms of his controversial actions, he is further weakening his relations with the West.
Senior Ashlin Green disagreed with some of Koenig’s perspectives regarding U.S. involvement in the conflict with Russia.
“I’m more cynical about the motivations of a lot of U.S. foreign policy,” Green said. “I’m no fan of Russia, but I feel like both sides share a lot of the blame for things being at this point whereas (Koenig) was much more focused on the Russian side of things,” Green said.
The New Cold War is riskier than the first due to unconventional warfare, Koenig said.
An example of unconventional warfare is nuclear blackmail, an increasing feature of Russian policy, Koenig said.
Koenig suggests the U.S. and its allies update their containment strategy as a defense, while recognizing historical problems with containment that he hopes would change with an updated strategy.
“We should not panic, but we should be on our guard,”Koenig said.
Fortunately, Koenig does not think that the New Cold War could reach the same global scale as the first one.
“From my perspective, Russia simply is not the U.S.S.R. It doesn’t have the capacity of the U.S.S.R. I’m not sure it has the desire to play such a global role, it’s more of a regional focus,” Koenig said.
Chair of the Political Science Department, professor Amir Abedi spoke to the implications of Koenig’s lecture for Western students.
“I think it’s important for students to learn about current events, and about foreign affairs in particular,” Abedi said. “During this campaign in particular, foreign policy has come to the fore and has been an important issue. It’s important for students to inform themselves so they can make an informed decision in the election and also assess events they hear about in the news.”
With the election a little over a week away, the possibility of going into a New Cold War will be important to consider.