Cold War II

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Putin (extreme left) was the target of several rebukes from other leaders at the G20 Brisbane summit (15–16 November 2014), due to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine[1][2]

Cold War II, also known as the Second Cold War, New Cold War, Cold War Redux,[3] and Colder War,[4] is a term appearing in the 2010s to refer to the renewed ongoing tensions, hostilities, and political rivalry between the Vladimir Putin-led Russian Federation and its allies on one hand, and the state representatives of entities such as the EU and NATO on the other hand, chiefly influenced by the United States and Germany.[5]

The original Cold War was a geopolitical struggle between NATO and the USSR-led Eastern Bloc that lasted from the mid-1940s to 1991, and the term "Cold War II" implies a continuation of the struggle between NATO and Russia, the internationally recognized successor to the Soviet Union. While notable figures such as Mikhail Gorbachev warned in 2014, against the backdrop of Russia-West political confrontation over the Ukrainian crisis,[6] that the world was on the brink of a New Cold War, or that a New Cold War was already occurring,[7] others argued that the term did not accurately describe the nature of relations between Russia and the West.[8] While the new tensions between Russia and the West have similarities with those during the original Cold War, such as rivalry for influence in Europe, there are also major dissimilarities such as modern Russia's increased economic ties with the outside world, which both constrains Russia's actions[9] and provides it with new avenues for exerting influence.[10] The new confrontation sees Germany as a major geopolitical player in Europe[11][12] for the first time since the end of World War II.[13][14]

Background[edit]

The 15 Republics of the Soviet Union
Republic
Pop. in
1989[15]
Area
(Mm²)
Russian SFSR 147,400,537 17,075
Ukrainian SSR 51,706,742 604
Uzbek SSR 19,905,158 447
Kazakh SSR 16,536,511 2,717
Byelorussian SSR 10,199,709 208
Azerbaijan SSR 7,037,867 87
Georgian SSR 5,443,359 70
Tajik SSR 5,108,576 143
Moldavian SSR 4,337,592 34
Kirghiz SSR 4,290,442 199
Lithuanian SSR 3,689,779 65
Turkmen SSR 3,533,925 488
Armenian SSR 3,287,677 30
Latvian SSR 2,680,029 65
Estonian SSR 1,572,916 45
USSR 286,730,819 22,402

The Cold War confrontation between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc took place from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. It arose after the allies of World War II, led by the Marxist–Leninist Soviet Union and the democratic capitalist United States and United Kingdom, defeated the Axis powers. Though the allies had had several war-time conferences regarding cooperation during and after the war, relations between the capitalist and communist powers soured after incidents such as Soviet territorial claims to Turkey, the Greek Civil War, the 1948 pro-Soviet coup d'état in Czechoslovakia and the Berlin Blockade. Military alliances formalized the division between the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc, as NATO united the Western Bloc countries in a military alliance in 1949 and the Eastern Bloc established the similar Warsaw Pact in 1955. Though the Warsaw Pact and NATO never engaged in open warfare, the two sides fought several proxy wars and backed competing political movements throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Throughout the period, relations between the two sides ebbed and flowed between acute crises and rapprochement (détente). The Cold War definitively ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.[16][17][18]

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, each of the fifteen Republics of the Soviet Union became independent states.[19] Though the fall of the Soviet Union exacerbated the Nagorno-Karabakh War and led to internal conflicts such as the Georgian Civil War, many of the post-Soviet states also managed to peacefully transition into independence.[20] The Russian Federation emerged as the sole legal successor to the demised Soviet Union, thus ensuring its de facto dominant role in the resultant Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of most of the ex-Soviet states, and in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance. Russia inherited the USSR's UN Security Council permanent membership seat as well as most of its military nuclear capacity, but it only inherited the territory within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic's borders, which had never before been borders between independent states. Relations between Russia and the West, already significantly thawed in the final days of the USSR, warmed further during the 1990s, as Russia appeared to move towards democracy and the free market.[21] Boris Yeltsin served as the first President of Russia, and the West generally supported Russian President Boris Yeltsin's successful 1996 re-election over Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.[22] In 1999, former KGB officer Vladimir Putin became Prime Minister of Russia. Putin made the reestablishment of a strong Russian state his top priority, and crushed internal enemies such as Chechen rebels and dissident oligarchs.[22]

With the Cold War over, political scientists looked for new paradigms to understand world politics.[23][24] In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that all states would eventually adopt liberal democracy. The next year, Samuel P. Huntington published his essay The Clash of Civilizations, in which he posited that civilizations were destined to compete based on their cultural and religious identities.[24] Huntington placed Russia at the core of the Orthodox civilization, while NATO and a few other countries comprised the West. Huntington's thesis continues to hold influence among many, although other political scientists reject his ideas.[24] In Russia, many struggled to accept the end of the political union of the USSR; the term "near abroad" came to refer to the other post-Soviet states, with the implication that Russia had certain "rights" in the near abroad.[25]

Vladimir Putin (pictured aboard battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy), at the helm of Russia since 1999, in 2005 famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century which left tens of millions of Russians beyond the borders of Russia.[26]

During April 2006, the American neoconservative scholar Robert Kagan, the husband of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, wrote in The Washington Post that Russia and China may be the greatest "challenge liberalism faces today": "The main protagonists on the side of autocracy will not be the petty dictatorships of the Middle East theoretically targeted by the Bush doctrine. They will be the two great autocratic powers, China and Russia, which pose an old challenge not envisioned within the new "war on terror" paradigm. ... Their reactions to the "color revolutions" in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan were hostile and suspicious, and understandably so. ... Might not the successful liberalization of Ukraine, urged and supported by the Western democracies, be but the prelude to the incorporation of that nation into NATO and the European Union—in short, the expansion of Western liberal hegemony?"[27][28]

Between 1999 and 2013, nine countries that had been either Warsaw Pact members or part of the Soviet Union, chose to join both the European Union and NATO. Russia voiced deep concern over this NATO enlargement and was particularly opposed to NATO's expansion to the Baltic states.[29] In addition to seeing the expansion of NATO as a threat, many Russian leaders also saw the expansion of NATO into Russia's former sphere of influence as an insult to Russia's status as a great power.[30] Russia also voiced concern over the United States national missile defense plans, as it saw both the NATO expansion and the US missile defense program as a potential threat to Russian national security.[29] In 2012, Russian General Nikolay Yegorovich Makarov threatened that if the United States were to deploy an anti-ballistic missile shield in Poland and Czech Republic, Russia would respond by deploying Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad.[31] After a four-year stint as Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin returned to the Russian presidency and began to promote a new brand of ideology known as Putinism, which promotes conservative Russian values and opposition to the West, particularly the United States.[22] By the early 2010s, polls from the Levada Center showed that Russians viewed the United States, Georgia, and the Baltic states as Russia's greatest enemies.

In December 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. would seek to counter Russian proposals for creating a Eurasian Economic Union of former Soviet states: "It's not going to be called that [Soviet Union]. It's going to be called customs union, it will be called the Eurasian Union and all of that, but let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it".[32] On September 12, 2013, in the context on Barack Obama's comment about American exceptionalism during his September 10, 2013, talk to the American people while considering military action on Syria, Putin criticized Obama saying that "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."[33]

In October 2014, Putin delivered his Valdai club speech, which sharply criticized the Western powers' foreign policy and actions, especially those of the United States, who, in his opinion, "having declared itself the winner of the Cold War", had taken steps that threw the system of global and regional security as established after World War II "into sharp and deep imbalance": "The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty <...>. This created the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition." [34]

Russia and NATO: End of cooperation and military build-up[edit]

Following the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, several former members of the Warsaw Pact and three post-Soviet states (light green) joined NATO (green), a move that alarmed Russia (orange).[29] The other post-Soviet states (yellow) are also shown on the map.

Relations between NATO and Russia, established in the early 1990s, began to appreciably deteriorate prior to 2014,[29] due to Russia's displeasure with the NATO expansion and Putin's Russia being increasingly assertive in what it refers to as its Near abroad.

The Russian Air Force strategic bomber Tu-160, pictured being intercepted by an RAF Tornado F3 (below), is to carry up to 12 new long-range Raduga Kh-101 (X-101) cruise missiles

On 1 April 2014, in response to the Ukraine crisis, NATO decided to "suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia".[35]

In spring 2014, the Russian Defense Ministry announced it was planning to deploy additional forces in Crimea, annexed by Russia shortly prior, as part of beefing up its Black Sea Fleet,[36] including re-deployment by 2016 of nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-22M3 ('Backfire') long-range strike bombers, which used to be the backbone of Soviet naval strike units during the Cold War but were later withdrawn from bases in Crimea.[37] The move alarmed NATO: in November 2014, NATO's top military commander US General Philip Breedlove said that the alliance was "watching for indications" amid fears over the possibility that Russia could move any of its nuclear arsenal to the peninsula.[38] In December 2014, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this would be a legitimate action as "Crimea has now become part of a country that has such weapons under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons."[39]

A report released in November 2014 highlighted the fact that close military encounters between Russia and the west (mainly NATO countries) had jumped to Cold War levels, with 40 dangerous or sensitive incidents recorded in the eight months alone, including an alleged near-collision between a Russian reconnaissance plane and a passenger plane taking off from Denmark in March 2014 with 132 passengers on board.[40] The 2014 unprecedented increase[41] in Russian air force and naval activity in the Baltic region prompted NATO to step up its long-standing rotation of military jets in Lithuania.[42]

At the NATO Wales summit in early September 2014, a Joint Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission was adopted that "strongly condemned Russia’s illegal and illegitimate self-declared “annexation” of Crimea and its continued and deliberate destabilization of eastern Ukraine in violation of international law";[43] this position was re-affirmed in the early December statement by the same body.[44] On 2 December 2014, NATO foreign ministers announced an interim Spearhead Force (the 'Very High Readiness Joint Task Force') created pursuant to the Readiness Action Plan agreed on in Wales and meant to enhance NATO presence in the eastern part of the alliance.[45][46]

In July 2014, the United States formally accused Russia of having violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing a prohibited medium-range ground-launched cruise missile (presumably R-500,[47] a modification of Iskander)[48] and threatened to retaliate accordingly.[48][49]

The US government's October 2014 report claimed that Russia had 1,643 nuclear warheads ready to launch (an increase from 1,537 in 2011) – one more than the US, thus overtaking the US for the first time since 2000; both countries' deployed capacity being in violation of the 2010 New START treaty that sets a cap of 1,550 nuclear warheads.[50][51] Likewise, even before 2014, the US had set about implementing a large-scale program, worth up to a trillion dollars, aimed at overall revitalization of its atomic energy industry, which includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers and construction of such sites as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility in New Mexico and the National Security Campus in south Kansas City.[52][53]

At the end of 2014, Putin approved a revised national military doctrine, which listed NATO’s military buildup near the Russian borders as the top military threat.[54][55]

Russia-West confrontation over Ukraine[edit]

Overview of Russia-Ukraine relations[edit]

Warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (including the flagship Moskva), based in Sebastopol since 1783

Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine, had been the capital of the medieval Russian state as well as the seat of the primates of the Russian Church. Most of the territory that currently belongs to Ukraine was within the Russian Empire by the end of the 18th century, after the partitions of Poland and the Treaty of Jassy (1792). The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, constituted in 1922, and Ukraine's 1991 declaration of independence contributed to ensuring the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of that year.

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's demise, Ukraine and the Russian Federation experienced tensions regarding the status of Crimea, which had been transferred by the central government of the USSR from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, and issues related to the status of the Black Sea Fleet. However, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum defused the dispute, as Ukraine gave up its nuclear stockpile in return for assurances from Russia, the USA, and the UK that Ukraine's security and integrity would be upheld. The bickering between the two countries over the ex-Soviet Black Sea Fleet was settled by the 1997 Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (1994–2005), who strove to maintain peaceful relations with Russia,[56] did not seek re-election in the 2004 national ballot, which featured Putin's favorite Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko, supported by most Western governments. After two rounds of voting, on 23 November 2004, the Central Election Commission declared Yanukovych the winner, but accusations of fraud led to a series of protests known as the Orange Revolution. The Orange Revolution increased tensions between Putin and Western countries, as Putin saw the Orange Revolution as a product of Western machinations and a foreshadowing of an assault on his regime.[22] Finally, the Supreme Court of Ukraine ordered a re-run of the second ballot and the new election was won by Yuschenko. Yuschenko pursued the policy of European integration and aspired to NATO membership, but NATO chose not to offer membership to Ukraine, as many Western leaders sought to avoid inflaming tensions with Russia.[57] Yanukovych won the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election, and announced a new policy of non-alignment.[57] Ukraine continued to maintain ties with both Russia and the European Union; in 2013, about a third of Ukraine's foreign trade was with the EU and roughly the same proportion was its trade with Russia.[58] The Yanukovych government negotiated the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement. However, Yanukovych, under pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin, refused to sign the agreement.[59] Yanukovych's decision sparked a series of protests known as the Euromaidan.

2014–15 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine: Russia Vs. the West[edit]

See also: War in Donbass
Protests in the pro-Russian rebel-occupied Donetsk, Ukraine, 9 May 2014

The Euromaidan protests led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, which had major implications for Ukraine in both domestic politics and foreign relations. After several violent clashes, in February 2014, Yanukovych was impeached and removed from office by a vote of the Ukrainian parliament.[60] Following Yanukovych's removal, an interim government took power, and May 2014 presidential election saw pro-Western businessman Petro Poroshenko elected President of Ukraine. In June 2014, Poroshenko signed the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, which his predecessor, Yanukovych, had rejected in 2013. The Euromaidan and Yanukovych's removal from power led to pro-Russian unrest in Eastern and Southern Ukraine starting in February 2014. Following this unrest, Russia conducted a stealth invasion of parts of Ukraine, sparking an international crisis. In March 2014, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea held the referendum, thereby declaring its secession from Ukraine, and shortly thereafter signed a treaty to join the Russian Federation. The annexation was not recognized by the overwhelming majority of the world community and provoked the imposition on 17 March 2014 of the first round of sanctions against Russia by Canada, the United States, and the European Union.

The term "Cold War II" gained currency and relevance as tensions between Russia and the West escalated throughout the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine followed by the Russian military intervention and especially the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014. By August 2014, both sides had implemented economic, financial, and diplomatic sanctions upon each other: virtually all Western countries, led by the US and EU, imposed restrictive measures on Russia; the latter reciprocally introduced retaliatory measures. Besides, Russia was barred from a slimmed-down June 2014 G7 summit in Brussels that had been planned as a G8 summit to be held in Russia.[61][62] Also, the Australian government explored the option of disinviting Putin to the November 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, to which Putin was eventually invited and did go but was reported to be frozen out or outright rebuked by some other leaders.[1][63] On the eve of the summit, the host, Tony Abbott, accused Putin of "bullying" Ukraine and trying to “recreate the lost glories of Tsarism and the Soviet Union”;[2][64] meanwhile, Putin was reported to have "ordered a Russian military flotilla of four ships to sail to the Queensland coast, adding to the surreal Cold War atmosphere".[64]

Several countries (green), many of which are NATO members, introduced sanctions on Russia (blue) following the 2014–15 Russian military intervention in Ukraine

In August 2014, the ITAR-TASS news agency cited the senior Russian law-maker Aleksey Pushkov as saying that Russia’s relations with the United States had become worse than in the 1970s and had no prospects for improvement.[65] Ukrainian President Poroshenko raised the possibility of holding a referendum on joining NATO.[66]

In December 2014, Ukraine renounced its policy of non-alignment, provoking harsh reactions from Russian leaders, who strongly oppose Ukraine's potential membership in NATO.[67]

Tensions in other ex-Soviet bloc countries[edit]

Besides Ukraine, several other ex-Soviet and ex-communist countries continue to be flashpoints in the tug-of-war between the West and Russia.[66] Frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova have been major areas of dispute,[66][68] as both countries have breakaway regions that favor annexation by Russia.[69] The Baltic Sea and other areas have also caused tension between Russia and the West.[66][70] The Crimean crisis sparked new worries that Russia might try to further remake the borders of Eastern Europe.[71]

Georgia and the Caucasus[edit]

Political map of the Caucasus region

Since the mid-2000s, Georgia has sought closer relations with the West, while Russia has strongly opposed the expansion of Western institutions to its southern border. Georgia has a long connection with Russia, as it was a republic of the Soviet Union, and became part of the Russian Empire in 1801. In 2003, the Rose Revolution forced Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to resign from office. Shevardnadze had been the leader of the Georgian Communist Party when Georgia was one of the republics of the Soviet Union, and Shevardnadze led Georgia for most of its first decade of independence.[72] Shevardnadze's successor, Mikheil Saakashvili, pursued closer relations with the West.[73] Under President George W. Bush, the United States sought to invite Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. However, Georgia's potential membership in NATO ran into opposition from other NATO members and Russia.[29][74] Partly in response to the potential expansion of NATO, Russia initiated the 2008 Russo-Georgian diplomatic crisis by lifting CIS sanctions on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Though considered to be part of Georgia by the United Nations, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have both sought to secede from Georgia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and both are strongly supported by Russia.[75] The Russo-Georgian War broke out in August 2008, as Georgia and Russia competed for influence in South Ossetia. Russia was strongly criticized by many Western countries for its part in the war, and the war heightened tensions between NATO and Russia.[29] The war ended with a unilateral Russian withdrawal of forces from parts of Georgia, but Russian forces continue to occupy parts of Georgia. In November 2014, a Russian-Abkhazian treaty was met with condemnation from Georgia and many Western countries, who feared that Russia might annex Abkhazia much like it annexed Crimea.[76] Georgia continues to pursue a policy of integration with the West.[77] Georgia holds a strategic position for the European Union, as it gives the EU access to oil in Azerbaijan and Central Asia without having to rely on Russian pipelines.[78]

Besides Georgia, the other two Caucasus states, Armenia and Azerbaijan, have also been a part of the rivalry between Russia and the West. The two countries are long-time rivals, and have a long-running dispute regarding control of Nagorno-Karabakh.[79] Armenia has close ties with Russia, while Azerbaijan has close ties to the United States and Turkey, both of which are members of NATO.[79] However, NATO also ties to Armenia, and both Armenia and Azerbaijan have been speculated as potential future members of NATO.[80] Armenia negotiated an Association Agreement with the European Union but, similar to Ukraine, Armenia chose to reject the deal in 2013.[81] The next year, Armenia voted to join the Eurasian Economic Union,[82] the Russian-backed free trade zone that seeks to rival the European Union.[83] However, Armenian leaders have also worked towards a free trade agreement with the EU.[82]

Moldova[edit]

Transnistria is a breakaway territory in Moldova

Much like Ukraine, Moldova has experienced internal debates between those favoring closer ties to the West (including joining the European Union) and those favoring closer ties to Russia (including joining the Russian-backed Eurasian Union).[66] Also like Ukraine, Moldova was a part of the Soviet Union; though Moldova was a part of Romania prior to World War II, it was annexed into the Soviet Union in 1940. In May 2014, Moldova signed a major trade deal with the European Union,[78] causing Russia to apply pressure on the Moldovan economy, which relies heavily on remittances from Russia.[84] The 2014 Moldovan parliamentary elections saw a victory for an alliance of pro-Western integration parties.[66] Moldova is also home to a breakaway region, known as Transnistria, which forms the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations along with Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.[66] In 2014, Transnistria held a referendum in which it voted to join the Eurasian Economic Union,[66] and Russia has strong influence over the region.[75] A build-up of Russian forces on the Ukrainian-Russian border caused NATO commander Philip Breedlove to speculate that Russia might attempt to attack Moldova and occupy Transnistria.[85]

Baltic states[edit]

The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, all three of which are members of NATO, have warily watched Russian military movements and actions.[66][70] All three countries were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and Russian leaders were particularly distressed by their accession to NATO and the European Union in 2004.[86] In 2014, the Baltic states reported several incursions into their air space by Russian military aircraft.[66] In September 2014, tensions rose as Russian intelligence forces crossed the Estonian border and captured Estonian intelligence officer Eston Kohver.[70] In October 2014, Sweden engaged in a hunt for a foreign submarine that had entered its waters; suspicions that the submarine was Russian have caused further alarm in the Baltic states.[87] The tensions in the Baltic and other areas have led neighboring Sweden and Finland, both of which have long been neutral states, to consider joining NATO.[86]

Other European countries[edit]

Russia seeks dominant influence in former Eastern Bloc states that are culturally and historically close to it, and to manipulate public opinion and policy-making throughout Europe.

In 1999, Russia opposed NATO's bombing of Serbia, seen by Russia as a cultural younger brother,[88] during the Kosovo War.[29] Russia strongly opposed Kosovo's independence from Serbia. As the West supported Kosovo's independence, Russia later used the "Kosovo precedent" as justification for its annexation of Crimea and its support of breakaway states in Georgia and Moldova.[11][89]

In November 2014, the German government, pursuing its ambitions for a more active foreign policy, publicly voiced its concern about what it saw as efforts by Putin to spread Russia's ‘sphere of influence’ beyond former Soviet states, notably in the Balkans, in such countries as Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia, which could impede those countries progress towards membership in the European Union.[11][12]

A series of Europe's far-right and hard Eurosceptic political parties such as Bulgaria's Ataka, France's National Front, Italy's Northern League, Hungary's Jobbik, have been reported to be courted or even funded by Russia.[90][91]

In early January 2015, public protests in Hungary broke out against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's perceived move towards Russia.[92] Previously, his government had negotiated secret loans from the Russians, awarded a major nuclear power contract to Rosatom, and made parliament give a green light to Russia’s gas pipeline project in contravention to blocking orders from Brussels.[93]

Tensions in other regions[edit]

Apart from tensions in Europe, Russia and the West have also competed for influence in other regions, including the Greater Middle East and Central Asia. In opposition to the United States, Russia is a major supporter of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War.[94] Russia strongly opposed Western actions in the Libya and Iraq.[95] The West and Russia (as well as China) have competed for influence in the five post-Soviet Central Asian states in what has been called "the New Great Game."[96][97][98] However, both Russia and the West have supported efforts to fight Islamic militants in Central Asia.[99] Russia has also attempted to project its military and economic influence into Latin America, an area with which the US has close economic and political ties.[100][101] Russia and NATO countries have also laid claim to territory in the Arctic.[102] Norway has urged NATO to be prepared for potential tensions in the region.[103] NORAD fighters have been scrambled to respond to Russian aircraft near Canadian airspace in the Arctic.[104]

Ideology and propaganda[edit]

State-funded intl. media[105]
Outlet Country
RFI France
France 24 France
Deutsche Welle Germany
RT Russia
Rossiya Segodnya Russia
TASS Russia
BBC World Service UK
Radio Free Europe US
Euronews EU

The original Cold War matched up the mostly-democratic capitalist Western Bloc with the nominally-Marxist-Leninist Eastern Bloc. While the ideological divisions of the Second Cold War are less stark, Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented Eurasianism[106] and "Putinism" as an alternative to Western ideals.[107] Putinism combines state capitalism with authoritarian nationalism.[107] Putin's central goal is restoring Russian strength, and he views Western countries as untrustworthy partners, particularly for the West's actions in the 1990s.[107] Putin and Russia as a whole lost respect for the values and moral authority of the West, creating a "values gap" between Russia and the West.[108] Putin has promoted his brand of conservative Russian values, and has emphasized the importance of religion.[109] Gay rights have also divided Russia and the West, as the United States has used its soft power to promote the protection of gay rights in Eastern Europe.[110] Russia, on the other hand, has hindered the freedom of homosexuality and earned support from those opposed to gay marriage.[110][111]

Both sides are engaged in a global information war, with Russia funding international broadcasters such as RT (formerly known as Russia Today), Rossiya Segodnya (including Sputnik), TASS (formerly known as ITAR-TASS), and other networks and newspapers, and NATO countries funding the BBC World Service and Voice of America (including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).[112] The Russian government also funds several domestic media networks, and the majority of Russians get their news from state-owned television networks.[113][114] The US has been accused of using sockpuppets to spread pro-American propaganda,[115] while Russia has been accused of funding web brigades that make pro-Russian comments on social networks and the comments sections of media websites.[116][117] Both Russia and NATO were said in 2014 to be engaged in a propaganda war.[118]

Russian state-controlled media played an important role in shaping attitudes towards the Euromaidan and the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine,[119] and Russian media has been particularly critical of the United States.[22][120] Russia's freedom of the press has received low scores in the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders. In 2014, President Putin signed a bill that limited foreign ownership to no more than 20% of any Russian media firm, further tightening state control over Russian media.[121] The Russian government also blocked a number of internet-based media outlets.[122] Russian officials such as RT editor Margarita Simonyan have argued that Russian-owned channels have provided an "alternative" that acts as a counterbalance to Western media.[123]

In early December 2014, the US House of Representatives adopted a resolution that noted, among other things, that the Russian Federation had "subjected Ukraine to a campaign of political, economic, and military aggression for the purpose of establishing its domination over the country and progressively erasing its independence", and urged the US president and the US Department of State "to develop a strategy for multilateral coordination to produce or otherwise procure and distribute news and information in the Russian language to countries with significant Russian-speaking populations which maximizes the use of existing platforms for content delivery such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Incorporated, leverages indigenous public-private partnerships for content production, and seeks in-kind contributions from regional state governments" as well as "to identify positions at key diplomatic posts in Europe to evaluate the political, economic, and cultural influence of Russia and Russian state-sponsored media and to coordinate with host governments on appropriate responses".[124] Likewise, in January 2015, the UK, Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia called on the European Union to jointly confront Russian propaganda by setting up a “permanent platform” to work with NATO in strategic communications and boost local Russian-language media.[125] On 19 January 2015, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said the EU planned to establish a Russia-language mass media body with a target Russian-speaking audience in Eastern Partnership countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as in the European Union countries.[126]

Build-up of espionage efforts[edit]

Russian espionage activities in the West under Putin had been reported to have reached the height of the Cold War levels years before the Ukraine crisis, according to official sources.[127][128][129]

The investigation report published by Newsweek in December 2014 found that Russian spying activity in Europe had returned to levels not seen since the Cold War; moreover, the investigation claimed that Russia had reintroduced the Soviet intelligence practice of so-called ‘influence operations’, whereby both Westerners and Russians resident outside Russia would be doing Moscow’s bidding.[130]

For their part, the US and its major allies had been aggressively building up their intelligence-gathering capabilities since the 9/11 attack in 2001, with the US intelligence budget having since doubled by 2013.[131]

Trade and economy[edit]

Nominal GDP of the 7 Largest NATO Economies and Russia[132]
Country GDP GDPPC
United States 16.8 53,001
Germany 3.6 44,999
France 2.8 44,099
United Kingdom 2.5 39,372
Russia 2.1 14,591
Italy 2.1 34,715
Canada 1.8 52,037
Spain 1.4 29,150
On 21 May 2014, Russia and China signed a $400 billion gas deal. Starting in 2019 Russia plans to provide natural gas to China for the next 30 years.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation moved towards a more open economy with less state intervention. Russia became an important part of the global economy.[133] In 1998, Russia joined the G7, a forum of eight populous democracies with developed economies, and Russia was a founding member of the larger G-20. In 2012, Russia joined the World Trade Organization, an organization of governments committed to reducing tariffs and other trade barriers. The opening of the Russia economy allowed greater economic interaction with the West and other areas, and the political tensions between Russia and the West have often influenced economic activities.

These increased economic ties gave Russia access to new markets and capital, as well as a political clout on the West and other countries. The Russian economy is heavily dependent on the export of natural resources such as oil natural gas, and Russia has used these resources to its advantage. Starting in the mid-2000s, Russia and Ukraine had several disputes in which Russia threatened to cut off the supply of gas. As a great deal of Russia's gas is exported to Europe through the pipelines crossing Ukraine, those disputes affected several other European countries. While Russia claimed the disputes had arisen from Ukraine's failure to pay its bills, Russia may also have been motivated by a desire to punish the pro-Western government that came to power after the Orange Revolution.[134] Gas exports by Russia came to be viewed as its weapon against Western Europe.[10] Under Putin, special efforts were made to gain control over the European energy sector. Russian influence played a major role in canceling the construction of the Nabucco pipeline, which would have supplied natural gas from Azerbaijan, in favor of South Stream (though South Stream itself was also later canceled).[91] Russia has also sought to create a Eurasian Economic Union consisting of itself and other post-Soviet countries.[106]

While Russia's new role in the global economy presented Russia with several opportunities, it also made the Russian Federation more vulnerable to external economic trends and pressures.[9] Like many other countries, Russia's economy suffered during the Great Recession. Following the Crimean Crisis, several countries (including most of NATO) imposed sanctions on Russia, hurting the Russian economy by cutting off access to capital.[135] At the same time, the global price of oil declined.[136] The combination of Western sanctions and the falling crude price, which is widely seen by the Russians as a US-Saudi plot aimed at them,[137] resulted in the ongoing 2014–15 Russian financial crisis.[136]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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