Although the Cold War ended over two decades ago, I would argue that the events of the last several days are an indication that a new Cold War may be igniting. The events which I am course referring to, is the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. This invasion is much more endemic of a standoff between East and West than it is about Ukraine.
Putin’s goal is to build a modern Russian Empire that resembles the old Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was the second largest republic with its population of 50 million people. Ukraine is a critical part of Putin’s imperialist plan based on its size and its location as it situated between Europe and Asia while Crimea provides access to the Mediterranean. Furthermore any agreement between the EU and Ukraine would surely include military provision and there is no way that he would allow NATO so close to his borders.
But it is Putin’s decision to invade Crimea that is reminiscent of the cold war because Putin doesn’t need to use force to bring Ukraine to its knees – he could do so quietly; economically. As Ukraine teeters on the brink of financial collapse Russia remains critical to Ukraine’s solvency. Without Russia’s financial assistance through gas subsidies and debt forgiveness Ukraine will default.
But this not what he has done. He has chosen aggressive action at the risk of criticism and isolation from his European partners . He is also risking possible confrontation – war. And he has chosen this course for a very specific reason to show strength and defiance. Putin is using the crisis in Ukraine to confront an old rival, the United States.
In Putin’s mind this is a rivalry was unjustly lost by Russia due to what Putin believes was weak leadership of former President Boris Yeltsin. Putin now has the opportunity to vindicate the collapse of the Soviet Union, an event that he calls the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.
He has challenged the US in a stand-off to see how far we are willing to go. And as we’ve seen, not very far at all. An inane threat of consequences that include Obama’s withdrawal from the G8 Summit in Sochi this June – so essentially Obama told Putin that he is not going to come to his birthday party. Maybe next Obama won’t let him ride his pony.