Heading for a new cold war

News & Views

Mohammad Jamil

BASKING in the glow of popularity at home and abroad, and because of ever-increasing income from oil and gas, Russian President Vlidimir Putin has been critical of the US – the sole super power. Already in February 2007, addressing the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, he had launched a full-frontal attack on the United States reminiscent of the Cold War days. He said that the United States had overstepped its borders with disastrous results. Putin attacked the concept of “unipolar world” and said US actions abroad had made the world insecure and more dangerous place to live in. After the end of the Second World War, the US and Russia had emerged as two super powers; the period was described as Cold War era till the collapse of the Soviet Union, because there was no real war or hot war on a wide scale.
At the present, the US is the only super power, and wishes to run the world according to its whims and fancy. However, despite invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the influence of the sole super power has waned, as the world witnessed the invincibility of the super shredded into bits, as the US and its allies were not able to stem the resistance in Afghanistan. Today, the Taliban have control over large swathes of land, and ISIS or Daesh has also made a strong foothold in part of Afghanistan. Last week, more than 80 people were dead and hundreds of protesters injured in suicide attacks on members of the Hazara minority who had staged demonstration over a new power line. In the past ISIL has carried out attacks in Nangarhar, the eastern part of the country but not as far as Kabul.
The US and some erstwhile European colonial powers have their vaulting ambitions to be once again the arbiter of the people’s destinies abroad wherever they perceive an opportunity. It was not just Ukraine they pushed into turbulence. They have been on this rank adventurism quite too often even over these very times, with Libya and Syria slipping down and down in a quagmire for their maddening geopolitical and strategic designs.
In the arena are arrayed the European Union and the United States against Russia, which has already taken Crimean peninsula and is now eyeing the Russian speaking eastern Ukraine, where the natives agitated for joining the customs union with Russia. For some time the compulsive adventurists had their way in Syria, but Russia chastened by the Libyan saga was not prepared to sign on a UN Security Council decree authorizing outside military assault on its ally Syria.
With strong and stable economy, Beijing has used its new wealth to attract friends, deter enemies, modernise its military, and aggressively assert sovereignty claims in its periphery. Many analysts believe that China’s rise is unstoppable. But for some, it is wishful thinking and they believe that economic growth no longer translates as directly into military power as it did in the past. But the defence analysts opine that China is the only country with the potential to become a true global leader, as the United States’ economic dominance has eroded from its peak. Though US has had tremendous influence over ASEAN, yet despite their rift over South China Seas they cannot ignore the rising power of China. The other day, Southeast Asian nations avoided mention of a ruling by the UN-backed tribunal that rejected China’s claims, which had infuriated Beijing.
Officially, Russian President Putin denies having any plans for creating a military alliance with China, yet both countries share a desire to limit American power. Both countries enjoy trade relationship in which, in essence, hydrocarbons are swapped for cheap consumer goods; and they have a mutual interest in promoting an alternative model to western diplomacy. Moreover, trade between the two countries has increased six-fold over the past decade. In 2014, they inked the biggest gas deal in history just months after the two states sealed a $400 billion gas deal, part of President Vladimir Putin’s strategy to bolster ties with Beijing.. For China, one of the main attractions of closer relations with Russia is the potential for challenging Washington’s still dominant global position. “In China, where until recently the official line was ‘non-alignment’, some prominent scholars have started to make unambiguous calls for a comprehensive strategic alliance with Russia,” Alexander Korolev, argued recently.
Russia and China share the strategic goal of challenging US hegemony in favour of a more multipolar world, and the two powers often find themselves on the same side in the UN Security Council, where they wield vetoes as permanent members. Issues like deal on regulating Iran’s nuclear programme, handling North Korea or Syria could not have been possible without Russia and China. Bashar al-Assad has been able to hold on to power in Syria due to their support. “As they support the idea of a multipolar world against American dominance, Moscow and Beijing will also tacitly back each others’ attempts to defend their own spheres of influence,” said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre. In the past two years, Russia has annexed Crimea and backed a separatist campaign to frustrate Ukraine’s turn to the West. China has dispute over islands in the South China Sea with West’s allies.
Nonetheless, analysts expect energy cooperation to continue to grow as Russia seeks alternatives to the politically thorny European market, and China addresses growing demand and problems with pollution and blackouts. Last year, China replaced Germany as Russia’s biggest buyer of crude oil. Both Russia and China have an interest in undermining the US dollar’s dominance in global trade as the world’s reserve currency. Russia now accepts yuan for oil payments (something that other oil exporters, such as Saudi Arabia, don’t do). Following the imposition of sanctions, Russian companies and banks – traditionally reliant on dollar-denominated syndicated loans – started to look to China for a financial escape route. One can infer from changing political landscape that world is likely to change from unipolar to at least bi-polar if not multipolar. It means world is moving for another new Cold War.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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