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Yet as economic power shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific basin, this is just one aspect of the current clash of world orders. The East-West divide is back.

The happy hopes at the end of the First Cold War in for the historic reconciliation of the continent came to naught. The physical frontier is reinforced by militarisation, as well as the psychological and political intensification of hostilities that in many ways surpasses that of the original Cold War.

Russia: punching above its weight

There has also been a major shift in perceptions. In the late Soviet years the West came to be considered the home of development and ultimately the best model of modernity. However, this model of the West as the only viable model of progress has given way to disillusionment. For Russia, Europe is no longer considered a desirable model, although this does not mean that there is a desire to break all ties. Equally, the belief that Russia after communism could join the Western fold has now given way to disappointment. The country stubbornly, and for some irrationally, seeks to maintain its independent status as a great power and refuses to adapt to the exigencies of the Atlantic system as historically constituted in the post-war years.

Just as the Second World War differed in its geopolitical and ideological postulates from the First, so the Second Cold War is not just the continuation of the First.

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As with both twentieth-century world wars, the unresolved problems at the end of the first gave rise to the second. In the three decades since , hopes of overcoming the East-West divide have not been fulfilled, and in many ways the gulf today is wider than it has ever been. Source: Flickr. Europe in once again entered a period of confrontation and division. For some, this represents the onset of a new Cold War, a period of entrenched confrontation accompanied by the rhetorical condemnation of the opponent.

However, it is clear that elements of a cold war have returned to Europe, although this does not mean the return of the Cold War. This is why the idea of a Second Cold War is useful, since it both seeks to identify the elements of continuity while revealing what is different. The continuities include the militarisation of the frontier between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation NATO and Russia in the Baltic, military exercises to prepare for conflict between the two, a nuclear stand-off based on the classic postulates of deterrence above all mutually-assured destruction, MAD , accompanied by intense propaganda designed to delegitimize and undermine the other.

The entire arms control mechanism is being dismantled and replaced by the language of ultimatums. In many ways this renewed confrontation is more dangerous than the original conflict. How did we manage to reproduce a conflict that so many agreements had vowed to prevent?

My basic argument is that the 25 years of the cold peace between and failed to resolve any of the fundamental problems of European security and political identity.

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By contrast, Russia remained loyal to a Yalta-type vision of great power politics managed by the UN Security Council, although this did not imply an attempt to reconstitute something akin to the old Soviet bloc. There have been three major periods of post-war European history. The original Cold War lasted from the late s to ; followed by a quarter century of the cold peace, in which the European Union and NATO enlarged, but in which Russia became increasingly disgruntled; and then after the full-scale onset of a Second Cold War, in which we now find ourselves.

This is an era of renewed confrontation, marked by sanctions imposed on Russia by the Western powers, while Russia seeks new alignments and partnerships in the East. The Ukraine crisis of was just the catalyst that brought out the underlying tensions. Today the militant anti-Russian regime in Kyiv, embittered above all by the loss of Crimea, acts as a powerful wedge driving Russia and the West even further apart to exacerbate the East-West divide.

The combination of geopolitics and democratisation since Ukraine became independent in means that tensions were there from the start, paving the way for the dominant model of Ukrainian state building. It turned out that history has many highways and byways. At the end of the Cold War Russia aspired to join the Historical West, but believed that its very act of joining would change its character and that through a process of transformation a Greater West would emerge.

Russia asserted that it was a senior constitutive member of international society, a founding member of the UN and a permanent member of its Security Council, and sought to lever this to transform the Historical West into a reconstituted order. Moscow argued that it had done more than any other state to end the futile Cold War, and therefore deserved some sort of special status in a reconstituted Greater West. Instead, Moscow was offered guest membership of the existing enterprises — the Historical West and the smaller Europe represented by the European Union.

For historical, status, geographical and security reasons, this type of membership was not acceptable — Moscow was not ready to enter into some sort of neo-colonial apprenticeship to ultimately join the Historical West. From this foundational difference all the rest flows. There was a fundamental incompatibility in perceptions. Moscow claimed a reward for ending the Cold War, but that is not how international politics works.

From the Western perspective, the Soviet Union and then Russia was a failing power. The country had exhausted itself in the arms race and its economic and political order was dysfunctional. This will create problems, but also new opportunities—both for Russia and the world. Foreseeing these tendencies in American policy, Russia intends to keep the United States at bay through a strategy of pre-emptive deterrence.

The cutting-edge strategic systems which Vladimir Putin referred to in his presidential address to the Federal Assembly in March aim to prevent American attempts to regain military superiority by showing that such attempts would be ineffective and prohibitively expensive. The situation in Europe is somewhat similar. Several European countries have accused Moscow of interference and claimed sight of a Russian trail in Brexit and the Catalonian separatist movement. Populists—who seem to represent a considerable portion of the electorate dissatisfied with current policies and deteriorating economic, social, and security conditions—are edging out elites, imposing their own agendas, and undermining traditional parties.

However, no one knows who or what will replace the customary pro-Atlantic ruling class. The European Union is facing four possible scenarios. The first would be to maintain an alliance with a less committed United States, on deteriorating terms, possibly compensating and saving face by simultaneously making slight improvements to relations with Russia.

The second scenario would be a pursuit of strategic independence through an effective security policy, but this would require enormous financial and political commitments and a revision of the basic principles of the European project itself.

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This could lead to either closer relations with the East, in order to respond to real challenges, or to a continued distancing from Russia. For the time being, the EU is trying to keep the faltering European project together with the help of anti-Russian sanctions, thus allowing the EU to speak with one voice. The third scenario would allow individual European countries and the European Union to join the Greater Eurasia project without breaking ties with the United States. Still, this would be based on different values and political principles than those the EU is used to.

A majority among the current European elite dream of the second scenario and favor the first, but in reality, Europe is heading towards the fourth option.

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The third scenario could materialize in several years, after Europe has felt even greater consequences of the internal and external transformations in world affairs. All of the above scenarios will require Russia to pursue a new and more active policy towards Europe. Structurally, the situation in the West is so strained that it has become a serious challenge to international security. Whereas 15 years ago the purpose of the international system was thought to be managing the rise of the new powers, it would now be more appropriate to speak about managing the decline of the old powers.

The current state of international relations is often described as a new Cold War. In fact, the higher level of structural tensions, the number of unresolved problems, the proliferation of uncontrollable and irresponsible actors, and the lack of regulation mean that it is actually even more dangerous than that. To top it all, there is a new ideological confrontation, not between communism and capitalism, but among Western elites themselves, who are trying to stop the downward slide of their ideological, political, and economic positions.

This confrontation is no less severe than the Cold War. To be sure, the bellicose American ideological and military build-up are currently attempting to replay the Reagan strategy of the s. This strategy is married to McCarthyism—a witch-hunt within the country. Just as in the s, some leading American experts and think tanks are accused of pro-Russian sentiments. But neither Russia nor China, nor even the majority of American allies in Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America, are willing to join a new game of old-style cold war.

Those in the West who want to play this game will have to do so alone, drifting towards new defeats and even isolation. Russia, China, India, and the other so-called new powers are not engaged in ideological expansion and are generally content with the direction in which the international system is evolving. They are powers of an emerging new status quo being repulsed by old powers. As international relations witness mounting structural tensions, there is an increasing danger of regional crises too.

Old conflicts in the Middle East, previously suppressed by the old international system, are breaking out again. With a further awakening of the peoples and increasing incidence of nationalism across Africa, especially below the Sahara, further destabilization is guaranteed. The rise of Asia is unfreezing old contradictions, previously suppressed by the bipolar world order and colonial powers, and creating new sources of tension.

Nuclear weapons are proliferating. It is unrealistic to expect North Korea to give up its nuclear goals after Israel, India, and Pakistan faced no penalties for moving forwards with their own nuclear programs, and especially after Iraq and Libya were devastatingly attacked after abandoning theirs. As a result, the moral justification for the non-proliferation regime was undermined. Iran will be followed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. South Korea and Japan may want to match North Korea and possess their own nuclear weapons as well, especially if the United States makes a deal with Pyongyang which prohibits North Korea possessing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.

However, even without such a gloomy scenario coming to pass, strategic stability is still in decline and the risk of a nuclear conflict is growing. New kinds of weapons are emerging: nuclear, near-nuclear, and conventional. Cyber weapons are acquiring a strategic nature because they can cause comparable damage to weapons of mass destruction. If they are not controlled through joint efforts, they could become ideal weapons for terrorists as they are relatively cheap, hard to trace, and can deliver stealth attacks on vital facilities, provoking international conflicts and producing a powerful multiplier effect.

Biological weapons capable of causing significant damage may be in the making too. All this is happening at a time when the old system of nuclear arms control and its related structures of dialogue are crumbling, whereas new systems are not emerging. There has been practically no serious discussion of new threats. For the first time since the s, the world could have no rules whatsoever governing strategic weapons, and this at a time when the strategic environment is far more complex and far less governable than it was in the early stages of the Cold War.

Inside Putin's Russia

In part, the current situation is a result of free-riding in matters of security and what may be called strategic frivolity: the readiness for long-term risks including military conflicts with huge escalatory potential in order to achieve short-term tactical gains, because the materialization of such risks is mistakenly perceived as unthinkable.

States and societies have become used to a long period of relative peace and have preferred either to think it will last forever or to propose escapist plans to scrap all nuclear weapons, the fear of which is the main, if not the only, guarantee of relative peace. In this situation, current relations between Moscow and Washington are particularly alarming.