From Rossiiskaya gazeta, June 30, 2021, p. 8. Complete text:
It is a truly fascinating exercise to analyze the new cold war – its similarities and differences in comparison with the previous one(s). Gradually, this concept is becoming generally accepted in relation to the current situation. In the US, for example, people have begun openly saying for the first time that relations with Beijing represent a new version of the cold war. Until recently, everyone denied this interpretation. The typological features of this type of confrontation in general, and its current form in particular, are a rich topic overall, subject to different interpretations. One thing cannot be denied: The speed with which events are developing and relationships are moving from one phase to the next is incomparable with what came before.
The beginning of this summer was a sort of restructuring period. The chaotic and rather multidirectional conflict is being replaced (and should be replaced, according to the plan of American strategists) by a much clearer picture. The model is the cold war of the second half of the last century, with an understandable division of the world into two camps. The camps are familiar: the free world versus the unfree world. The collective political West (restored), as before, versus the new collective East (constructed).
The difficulty lies in the heterogeneity of the potential blocs, which is much greater than before. The pragmatic interests of the flagships of the liberal world order, the US and Europe, do not coincide, and the “community of autocrats” exists much more in the minds of its opponents than in reality. So it will not work just to call up the adherents of one ideology or the other for the campaign. What’s more, the ideologies in their strict 20th-century forms cannot be observed.
For the sake of fairness, let us note: The very formulation of the problem is not absurd (this does not mean that it is correct). The [US President] Joseph Biden administration is acting consistently. It set out to systematize the international anarchy that surrounds it, the existence of which disgusts the US, having become accustomed over several decades to the position of undisputed leader. First, over half of the world, then over everything.
The crisis of the world order began long ago, at least in the early years of the 21st century, but it has become a true challenge in recent years thanks to the approach and style of Donald Trump. Biden positions himself as the opposite of his predecessor, and in many ways he is. But this does not mean either a rejection of everything that was done in the previous four years, or a return to pre-Trump policies. While not rejecting the “great-power rivalry” that was declared the basis of American strategy under Trump, Biden believes it is necessary to approach it on a much firmer [ideological] foundation. This is exactly why the schemes of the classic cold war are needed, especially since the US and its allies won that one. Hence the desire to revive the black-and-white picture, rallying together like-minded people. This rallying is important not so much to strengthen America itself as to level out, as far as possible, potential obstacles associated with the independent actions of close partners.
But in view of the aforementioned heterogeneity in the ranks of the allies, a convincing adversary is needed to rally them together. Separately, neither Russia nor China is currently embracing this role. It is not easy to scare the Europeans with China, or the Americans with Russia (granted, there is an effort to scare both of them as much as possible). But as a two-headed hydra, Beijing and Moscow are capable of forming a rather formidable image for both America’s allies and the uncertain neighbors of both powers.
A detailed analysis of possible strategies for a new cold war has begun, and different options are being offered. But what unites the various assessments is a common leitmotif – [the idea that] an increase in tension is inevitable. If a structured confrontation is recognized as the way out of a dangerous and highly unbalanced international situation, that means it will get more tense. (Let us not forget about the acute internal problems of all the major players, which they are now boldly using all manner of foreign policy to solve.)
In this sense, the encouraging results of the meeting between [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden [see Vol. 73, No. 24‑25, pp. 3‑7] do not contradict the overall logic. This is the structuring part of the process, reducing risks in the most dangerous areas of interaction. And the action of theBritish destroyer “Defender” in the Black Sea is a provocative part, one that maintain the intensity of the conflict (in this context, it does not matter whether it was London’s decision or an operation coordinated with the allies). This is a dialectic of the same phenomenon. We must be ready to both maintain a dialogue on the first track (putting things in order), and correctly address manifestations of the second (constant testing of capabilities).
Returning to the movement of time, let us hope for our salvation in the fact that everything that is happening now is fleeting. What used to take decades now takes years. And what took years – months. This does not diminish the risks. On the contrary, in such a concentrated environment, the cost of each movement increases. But if you understand the specifics of the 21st century red lines – and in some ways they are recreating the lines of the past, while in others they are being drawn in completely different areas – there is hope of breaking out of the current trap faster than from the past one. Be that as it may, there is more clarity in the international situation now than there was a couple of months ago. And this is already a step in the right direction.