With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989, the World’s nightmare and apprehension was finally buried-the fear of a ‘devastating’ nuclear war was sealed and kept in the attic. But 27 years after, this fear seemed to have been reawakened by a new twist in Russo-American relationship that has led to reinforcement of alliances (NATO) in the West and the beginning of a new arms race between the two super powers.
Haunted by past glory and an unwavering status as the major challenger to the US led West global hegemony, Russia’s quest to regain lost ground, global relevance and influence received a major boost under Vladimir Putin. The former KGB man saw and witnessed first-hand, a Soviet Union at its full strength that had Eastern Europe, Baltics and central Asia as itscorridor of influences-A vantage position that it strutted on the diplomatic red-carpet. Hence, it came as no surprise to see an ‘aggressive’ and ‘daring’ foreign policy orchestrating from Moscow under the dictate of a man not only obsessed with the past but, one with a Tsarist tendencies.
Under Putin, Russia’s aggression has never been this gutsy and threatening since the fall of the Soviet Union. Unhappy with the EU’s extension into Eastern Europe, and a NATO-a military alliance between the West and US-that has now swelled its ranks by extending membership to Moscow’s neighbours, Putin showed his displeasure by sending his army to Georgia to facilitate the secession of South Ossetia and Abkhasia from Tbilis, and most recently Ukraine by backing Pro-Russian Rebels in the East of the country and annexing Crimea from Kiev. It was a move that signaled Moscow’s intent at keeping the West at bay and at the same time cowed in her neighbours (at least for now).
While Putin continues to call NATO’s bluff in Ukraine and the Alliance seemingly reluctant to activate its defense clause which states that “an attack on one, is an attack on all”, however, recent aggression and incursions into Swedish international waters by Russian submarines, the testing of America’s resolve by flying its fighter jets close to Alaska and buzzing of a US naval ship in the Baltic sea recently has gotten Washington worried and reluctantly drawn into what Defense secretary Ash Carter has branded as “the Past”. “The Past” seems to be dictating the present. Putin’s actions have reawakened the ghost of the past-a monster that is now threatening to redefine Moscow-Washington relationship. The frosty relationship has seen new arms race build up between the two heavyweights.
Russia has not only built the new Armata-T4 Tanks and an enhanced heavy weapons and long range missile system on its naval warships, it has also, flaunted these new military hardware on the battlefields in Ukraine and Syria. And the US has responded swiftly by investing heavily in new weaponry and fighting machines to be ahead of Moscow’s new toys while also urging NATO’s members to increase their defense budget and invest in the development of new military hardware.
Besides this, Washington has rallied the Alliance by conducting drills for ten thousand strong military contingents (The largest gathering of NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union); an exercise meant to ascertain the readiness and response of the alliance’s army and its weaponry in case of a Russian invasion or attack on a member state. A development Moscow must have labeled War drills and a reason to further fortify its army.
Further exacerbating the crack between both sides is the patriot missile intercontinental defense shield system placed in Poland and Romania; countries Russia calls its ‘backyard’ and considers the missiles presence there an act of aggression towards her by Washington.
‘The defense shield is meant to shoot down enemy missiles from Iran from hitting mainland Europe’ according to the Whitehouse-an explanation Putin has called a ruse and rather, an attempt to deter Moscow’s capabilities and has inadvertently vowed to respond strongly to the missiles placement close to its borders.
“We will ensure to maintain the strategic balance of power. These defensive shields can be used for offensive purpose therefore, we would respond in best possible ways that guarantee Russia’s security,” stated an angry Putin when he visited Athens last month. A prospect of a war between the U.S. and Russia is unforeseeable for now; trying issues like Syria, ISIS, terrorism and global warming have made both powers see reason in collaborating and making the world safer.
Though, there still remains yet unresolved knotty issues harbouring on Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its role in Ukraine’s East that has led to Western sanctions, nonetheless, the need to enhance global peace and more importantly, making sure the ‘Non Allied Movement’s relevance-a bloc that sat back on the fence, and stood aloof during the ‘cold war’era- remains buried with the ‘ghost of the Soviet Union’ becomes a priority for both sides.
Needless to say, moving on from the past should be the blueprint for Moscow and Washington. If there is going to be any rivalry it should be a healthy one; one that will benefit mankind.
There are too many problems to contend with in the world right now than a ‘titanic war’ between the two super powers. And sheathing of swords might just be the first step in ‘mending the wall’.