The speech U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney delivered at the Latvian capital Vilnius on May 5 gave rise to comments about the beginning of “a new Cold War.”
In his speech, Cheney accused Russia of retreating from its 10-year-long reform process, using oil and natural gas as foreign policy tools and monopolizing oil transport. The Russian press likened Cheney’s address to Winston Churchill’s famous speech in Missouri, a speech that started the Cold War. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said Cheney’s speech was incendiary, considering the content, place and timing.
I don’t think the speech at Vilnius will start a Cold War that doesn’t already exist. Many factors, like the U.S. insisting on a Ballistic Missile Defense Project and its blaming of Russia for Iran’s nuclear crisis, demonstrate the persistence of America’s deep mistrust of Russia. The establishment by the United States of military bases in some Central Asian countries like Azerbaijan, its search for alternative natural gas and oil routes for Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to avoid routed through Russia, are added proofs of mistrust.
As a response to this, Russia’s energy-based foreign policy strategy has been to punish Ukraine by cutting off its gas supplies, to react harshly against Western attempts to intervene in the Belarusian elections and support “color” counter-revolution other neighboring States. These actions demonstrate Russia’s determination to ratchet up the tension and re-assert a balance of power, rather than a balance of tactical violence, which prevailed during the Cold War.
The current struggle over the balance of power is no ordinary one. It is much like the colonial struggle to exploit the sources and control the actions. For a time, the rate of the “American Empire’s” growth infuriated the Russians, but that moment has passed.
Russia’s renewed “Soviet” policy, strongly influenced by President Vladimir Putin’s personality, is not confined to the areas of economy and energy. The two superpowers, which signed SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks ] and START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ] to reduce their nuclear weapons stockpiles, continue their “balance of horror.” Even if their numbers have been reduced, they continue to replace older weapons with ever-more powerful models, which are almost impossible to detect or destroy.
Experts on Russia used to say that even if the global Cold War was over, it would never end in the Caucasus. Developments over the past year have shown this prediction to be all too accurate.
Many things have been written and done to rehabilitate the policies of these two nations after a Cold War. But nothing has been written or done on how to initiate a healthy dialogue, rather than the absolutely stark, black and white lenses with which both societies see each: us and them, with us or against us. Nothing has been done to address how to end the distrust that Americans have for the Russians, and Russians have for Americans.
Unless these things are done, it will be impossible to end the Cold War. The problem is beyond the power struggle between the two countries. What is going on today is the mutual continuation of a war with cultural, linguistic and even religious dimensions. You may deactivate the explosives or uncock the trigger, but the powder kegs are still full of explosives. A single spark will be enough to start an inferno …
Cheney’s Vilnius speech was a kind of spark. It isn’t yet clear how it will affect Cheney’s personal fate in Washington. But even before his speech, he had been under criticism for some time, with rumors swirling that he could be replaced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
One thing is certain, however. Gazprom [Russia’s State-owned oil giant] will no longer accept Chevron or Conoco-Philips, which have indirect links with the White House, as partners.