Is another Cold War on the cards as US-Russian ties suffer the heat?
It was a cold night on 8th February 2014, when the Ukrainian police authority assaulted a group of agitated protesters at the Independence Square in the national capital, Kiev. The arisen hysteria filled with multiple explosions culminated with the deaths of 18 radicals and seven policemen. Although, later the presidential headquarters were too attacked by the demonstrators, yet the President, Victor Yanukovych, made this statement that the conflict had not gone out of hand for the government. But it did and wasfollowed by the voting out of Yanukovych headed government fromits office by the end of that week. Soon the protests were branded as “terror activities” by the newly elected anti-Russian Ukrainian government, leaving the whole nation in close range of a civil war. With this change, an escalation arose in the agitated protests, carried on by the pro-Russian “separatists”, majorly in the Eastern parts of Ukraine.
Reasons for Ukraine to go through this turbulence
The major root cause of dissent in the popular public opinion can be attributed to the anti-Russian action of shunning the European Union that the Ukrainian government took in December, 2013. The deep-rooted Ukrainian dream of economic coalition with the rest of Europe bit the dust. Had this merger gotten through then it could have been a permanent resolve for the ever persisting financial troubles of the ex-Soviet Union state. Instead of giving justification for its policies, the government chose to imbibe violent meansto curb the protests, leading to aggravation in the opposition. The death-toll kept on rising, as the public opposed international opinions of the government. Just in the Independence Square confrontation 77 lost their lives and that too within a short span of 48 hours. Soon the protesters took the driving seat of the capital in their own hands. This point also saw the President flee from the capital on the charges of mass-murdering the demonstrators. On the other side, Russia accused this unrest, in one of its closest neighbour nation, to be a brain child of the US government and to support the resolve, provided Ukraine with a major funding of 2 billion USD along with other financial respites.
The Russian Argument
Coming down to key Russian involvement in this equation, Russian forces took control of the armed bases in the Crimean peninsula, under the pretext of safeguarding the interests of the Russian speaking population in the region. The situation as well as the Russian intention became much clearer after the appearance of Yanukovych in Russia. Slowly and steadily pro-Russian radicals commenced their activities to advocate the merger of Ukraine with Russia in almost all parts of the country including Kiev. The date for the referendum to join Russia was soon announced by the leaders of these radical outfits and was fixed to be held on March 16. Tension grew out of bounds, with this announcement, between the two divided sets of the “separatists” and the “loyalists”. Surprisingly, 95% of people who voted in the referendum reflected their choice to join Russia and using that as a sufficient approval, Russia annexed Crimea on March 18 as Putin signed the treaty for this purpose. On March 31, Dmitry Madvedev, the present Prime Minister of Russia, made a planned visit to Crimea to make the resolution of increasing the pays and funds in thepeninsula.
This action was heavily condemned by the US and the European Union, as both the sides have been exchanging a number of sanctions with Russia since then. The General Assembly of the United Nations too found this annexation to be illegitimate. To show their displeasure with Russia, the other seven nations of the G8 decided to organise this year’s summitwithout inviting Russia and agreed on the fact that they won’t change their course until and unless Russia gives back Crimea to Ukraine. NATO, too, boycotted all of its military ties and obligations to Russia, alongside the separation of its troops. But these actions did not prove enough for Russia to revert from its decision to annex Crimea, as Putin released the statement that it was high time to grant Crimea the status of an independent state as the whole Ukraine had reached the verge of a disastrous civil war.
Realizing the tension and after coming under this much diplomatic pressure, Russia later approved of the presidential elections to be peacefully organised in Ukraine and backed out its armed forces from the Ukrainian border areas. But these elections too reflected the popular choice of the Eastern Ukrainians to gain sovereignty. Russia also stooped all of its gas supplies to Ukraine, as it has not received any of the outstanding payment of a huge debt,from Ukraine. Probably this was the Russian way to show their displeasure with the present Ukrainian government, which has launched an armed operation against pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine.
Why another cold war between US and Russia can be foreseen in coming times?
Russia has been in anuncomfortable stand-off with the west since it annexed Crimean. Many international security agencies have accused Russia of posting its agents to create an atmosphere of trauma in the region. Many a times, photographic proof have emerged too, showing Russian armed forces running their operation in Eastern Ukraine, yet Russia has shunned such evidencesevery time.
The fresh sanctions, which the Obama administration announced this week, specifically aimed to negatively alter the global economic position of Russia, unlike previous sanctions which only affected some individual leaders, based in Eastern Ukraine. The EU, too, supported the American move by launching a few of its ownsanctions against Russia, biting off a huge chunk out of the European investment in the communist giant, as well as freezing the assets of someesteemed Russian individuals. According to the west, Russia needs to stop providing military equipment to the separatists in Ukraine, the accusation that Russia has already denied in the past. Russia is also facing similar heat from Germany.
“We may go back to the 1980s in our relations with the states that are declaring these sanctions,” the Russian Prime Minister commented during a cabinet meeting, after US announced fresh sanctions on Russia this week. He also added that, “We will also have to give more attention to our defence and security expenditures”. The effect of these sanctions could be well felt in the Russian market sentiment, as MICEX index fell by 2.4 percent in a single day. To give US an equivocal response, Russia announced that it will reopen its spy base in Cuba. This Cuban spy hub was used by Russia to monitor the security activities in US during the Cold War period and this centre was closed soon after the U.S.-Russian ties became better in 2001. This spy-base was used to be known as Lourdes signals intelligence facility. To ease the process, Russia relieved Cuba of 90% of the debts it owed to Russia, around 32 billion USD) since the times of the Soviet Union.
Maybe all this international politics doesn’t indicate a cold war. Maybe we are already living through the pre-birth stages of the Third World War. The warfare methods have grown much more subtle as economically crippling sanctions have taken place of destructive bombs, which I guess is a much less cruel way of making a country perish itself, by bereaving it of its fundamental resources to survive, isn’t it?
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