Christian Science Monitor: Why Georgia is not start of 'Cold War II'
Paris - Two weeks into the Georgia crisis, Russia maintains leverage, adroitly playing a great game of obfuscation and tit-for-tat – both militarily and diplomatically – with a disunited West struggling to determine whether this is a new cold war.
Vladimir Putin's idea of the 21st century appears different from that described by President Bush in calling for Russia to withdraw. As NATO officials this week fought to show strong support for Georgia without irreparably damaging ties to Russia, the "new world order" described by Mr. Bush's father as the Soviet empire collapsed seems a faint memory.
Yet while Russia's action has been termed a new cold war, that concept doesn't capture the dramatic global changes since Mikhail Gorbachev disbanded the Soviet Union in 1991, say diplomats and Russian area specialists. In a more globalized world, Russia is at once a competitor, a partner, and an opponent. ...
...To be sure, thinkers – diplomats, scholars, writers – say the Russian blitz into Georgia represents a new world, but what kind of new world is undefined.
Cold war certainties have given way to an international climate that is mixed up, unpredictable, contrary, and quite corrupt. Russia's action is creating "a new context of fear rippling through its border regions," says Goble, causing "effects we can't even understand yet."
In the post-cold-war world of 2008, there's no one overarching reality that provides an orienting stability. Russians again feel Moscow's power and authority, and are assured by it. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make NATO, the US, and Europe appear weak. In this world, "if you take one action, it can boomerang and harm something else," says Hassner. The "war on terror" isn't an adequate principle around which to center all focus, he adds.
Some East European analysts say Russia doesn't want to attack or allow hostile relations with the West à la cold war; Rather, Moscow's intent is to exploit the riches and technology of the West.
"Russia's strength is made possible by oil at $150 a barrel," says Bartosz Weglarczyk, foreign editor of influential Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. "If oil is cut to $60 a barrel, Russia is sunk. [Russians] spend less on research and development than Poland. They want bank accounts in the West, to make millionaires off sales to Europe. They don't want a big war. They want to gain influence and manipulate."