In 1946, the author, George Orwell, wrote that Russia had “began to make a ‘cold war’ on Britain and the British Empire.” To add to this, Bernard Baruch said a year later, “we are today in the midst of a cold war.”
What brought upon these statements? In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Soviet Union, previously an ally of the Western democracies, occupied the Baltic States and imposed its control over Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and other satellite nations in its vicinity. At the same time, the United States, led by President Harry Truman, took a powerful anticommunist stand by extending military and financial aid to the countries in Western Europe, helping them fight back against the expansionist desires of the Soviet Union. The Truman Doctrine, as it’s called, became the foundation of the U.S. foreign policy and placed the country in the role of global policeman.
The Truman Doctrine proved such a powerful policy that the United States has, in one form or another, maintained its global policeman’s role to this day. In the last 20 years, the focus of the policy has shifted from fighting communism to fighting terrorism, but the principles remain the same. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are extensions of the same policy—the United States watching over global interests in the way it’s beneficial to itself and the rest of the free world.
We may argue whether the world needs a global policeman. Well, the history of the last almost 70 years has clearly shown it does: the United Nations is a toothless organization that lacks the power to enforce anything; the European Union is a regional wannabe superpower that doesn’t have the necessary internal cooperation and willpower to contain its main eastern neighbor.
We may also argue whether the U.S. needs to be the global policeman. But who else? Do we want Russia to take this role? China? There’s only a number of nations who could actually afford to do this job. I don’t know about you, but given the choice, I feel much safer with the United States at the helm.
But the sad thing is, in the last six years, the United States has neglected this role. The country is still powerful, but the leadership isn’t. And because the leadership—the Obama administration—isn’t interested in leading the free world any more, the country get weaker, maybe even too weak by the time the next administration (who might be more willing to continue the American policemanship) takes over. And if America gets too weak to carry the duties of global policeman, we’re all truly fucked.
The Obama administration holds a different view on this, but the Cold War hasn’t gone anywhere. The country that the Western Hemisphere was at war with is still there, even though it now calls itself the Russian Federation, not the Soviet Union. Nothing else has really changed: Russia still intimidates its neighbors; wages wars of aggression against them (Georgia first, now Ukraine, who knows what’s next); completely disregards the human rights of its own citizens or anyone else really; refuses to cooperate with other countries; even refuses to coexist peacefully with its neighbors and the rest of the world. The elections in Russia are still rigged, and the domestic political games are only a tiny bit more theatrical than they were in the Soviet Union, but even then the Soviet leadership didn’t just change places like Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev did. Russia continues to defy calls from the West to reform and to stop threatening its neighbors. And moreover, Russia still shoots down civilian airliners like its predecessor—the Soviet Union—did.
So President Barack Obama may in his naivety say that “it’s not a new cold war,” without understanding that it’s not him who’s waging it, but the Russian Federation. The only truth in his statement is that it indeed isn’t “new.” It’s the same Cold War that began in 1946. It hasn’t ended, it hasn’t gone anywhere.
And as long as Russia continues to behave like the Soviet Union, the Western Hemisphere has to be ready to fight against Russia’s aggression. They have to stop imposing playful and meaningless sanctions; they have to stab the knife where it hurts—freeze Russians’ assets in the Western banks, freeze Russia’s and Russian state-owned companies’ assets in the West, and make it all but impossible for Russians to do business outside Russia, up to the point of having ATMs refuse Russian-issued debit and credit cards.
If nothing else, this will at least make Russians think about their future. And if that works, the Russian people will get rid of their oppressive regime themselves.