Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Cold War?

Ok..That is a bit of an exaggeration! However, the recent news from Russia has been hostile and perhaps antagonistic. America hopes to build a nuclear defense shield in Poland, as well as in the Czech Republic. The US claims it is for defense from Iranian nukes. The Russians were perturbed and claimed that the shield was for Russian nukes and thus they disliked the idea immensely. They further countered that the Iranians are several years away from having nuclear weapons capable of reaching Europe. The US responded by offering to allow Russia access to our technology as a way of demonstrating a lack of hostility on the part of the US. The Russians rejected this and have now been threatening to pull out of NPT agreements. This threat is severe, as Russia is the second largest possesor of nuclear weapons, after the US, in the world. Why is Russia so perturbed about this potential nuclear defense shield?

Russia is striving to re-gain super-power status, through its supply of oil and natural gas. The US interfering in their former sphere of influence would put a damper on these aspirations. These aspirations may sound absurd for a country that only 15 years ago was weak and trying to reform itself, however; the evidence would claim otherwise. Russia has managed to coerce, through economic sanctions and other threats, control of much of the oil and gas in the Former Soviet States. Russia supplies much of the energy to many of its neighbors, including Europe. Putin arrested, jailed and broke up the company of one of the few men who has tried to challenge him, Khordorkovsky. His former company, Yukos oil, was one of the largest private oil companies in Russia. Now its assets are in the hands of Gazprom (Russia's national oil and gas company)and have thus increased the power of Putin and his government cronies (26% of which are former KGB).

Putin has quelled dissent in Chechnya be any and all means necessary. He is using Russia's wealth of oil and natural gas to yield increasing amounts of power in the region and potentially to re-assert Russian prominence on the global stage. This may not turn out to be much of a threat to the US. On the other hand, it might. For the US to work through the UN, they need Russian support. Germany can not do much to pressure Russia, as they are exceedingly dependent on Russia for their energy needs. And as Russia increases its production of oil, considers some type of deal with OPEC, and world energy prices remain high, the world may have to reckon, once again, with a powerful and perhaps, belligerent Russia.

1 comment:

Hans Morgenthau said...

The "new cold war" as I would use it is with the PRC, without a doubt. Russia, despite its recent efforts to scrap ancient missile treaties does not have the economic power necessary to fuel a renewed significant military build up. I think this was part of the soviet disease during the last cold war.

For realists, power is fungible. Economic power translates to military power. With this understanding, only China has the capacity to fund and fuel a New Cold War. Russia will not be a threat anytime soon.