Return of The Cold War?
Previously published on September 26, 2009
The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union lasted over thirty years, cost at least 13 trillion dollars for America, and polarized the world under fear of nuclear war, yet ended with a peaceful International Community. In recent years, diplomatic relations between the United States and Eastern nations like the Soviet Union and China have been strained. As new world powers emerge and exercise their strength in an increasingly fractured International Community, events seem to suggest a cold war scenario between the East and West could repeat.
Between the United States acting against the will of the International Community during the invasion of Iraq and Russia's 2008 brutal offensive in Georgia, preceded by Western plans to build an antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe, it feels as though the Cold War could return. Then again, the Obama Administration's efforts to reach out to Russian leaders and advance a policy of conflict resolution with defiant and rogue states seem to be well received by the former Soviet Union. In all, it appears Russia may well be simply trying to respond to Western influence and demonstrate it is still a mighty world power.
Although inflated energy prices have allowed oil and gas rich Russia to reemerge as a world power, China's economic expansion over the last few decades could eventually push the Communist nation into the role of superpower. In fact, China's efforts to refine its world image, solidify its economic power, and develop strong diplomatic relations as well as build a world class military, suggest just that. With this power growing, China will want to flex its muscles far more than it already has.
China needs to demonstrate it is a superpower by showing the world the West does not dictate policy in its region. With China taking soft stances on issues like nuclear North Korea and human rights violations in places such as Myanmar (Burma), it is doing so at the risk of creating a conflict with the West. As China moves to expand and demonstrate its power in Asia, it risks conflicts with its neighbors while completely ignoring Western interests would be a great mistake. Of course, the potential for conflict is strongly mitigated by the complex economic ties Asia shares with the West, yet this could also be the cause of a future conflict.
A new cold war between the East and West would likely center around the US and China with Asia as the battleground for proxy wars. The world is facing issues, such as climate change, water and food shortages, global terrorism, unstable energy prices, and dramatic power shifts that will seriously stress the International Community. What would start as a strong dislike for Chinese policies could escalate into a cold war in the event of a regional conflict with US allies like India or South Korea while Western intervention on issues like nuclear North Korea could also be a spark a larger conflict.