New Cold War - Metaphor or Geopolitical Reality?

Professor Mark Kramer considers the INF Treaty an atavism of the Cold War and reminds of the new global context of the confrontation between the United States and Russia

Professor Mark Kramer (Mark kramer), Director of the Cold War Research Program, Senior Researcher at the Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Davis at Harvard University, speaking on Thursday, February 21, at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, noted: the INF Treaty had to be terminated in the early 1990s, and the treaty itself is just one manifestation of deeper tensions in the US-Russian relationship. The latter, however, as the professor notes, today cannot be compared with the “new Cold War”.
The main topic of the presentation by the professor at Harvard University was a lecture on the topic “The metaphor” New Cold War “does not make sense.” According to Mark Kramer, relations between the United States and Russia cannot be characterized by the term "a new Cold War “, which has become a fairly popular description of US-Russian relations in recent years.
According to the professor, the main characteristics of the Cold War were the presence of two superpowers – the USSR and the United States, which were more powerful than all other countries, then there was a deep ideological confrontation between Marxism-Leninism and liberal democracy, and the world, especially Europe and Asia, was divided into two rival camps, leaning towards either the USA or the USSR.
Today, according to the professor, we do not observe any of the main features of the Cold War..
As Mark Kramer notes, Russia’s status today is not comparable to that of the USSR, China is a stronger country than Russia, and the United States remains the dominant power in the world..
“Even adjusted for purchasing power parity, Russian per capita income is only one-seventh of the income of the United States, and Russia’s military spending is only about one-eighth of the United States level,” recalls the American political scientist.
Also, according to the Harvard scientist, there is no true ideological confrontation today. As Mark Kramer notes, today there is no clear ideology in Russia – the so-called “traditional values” promoted by the authorities are largely incoherent, and President Vladimir Putin himself is more interested in consolidating political power than in developing a coherent ideology. Anti-Western rhetoric, according to the professor, which forms the core of the policy of the Russian president, became a pretext for the infringement of civil and political freedoms in the country..
The geopolitical situation has also changed: Europe is integrated into NATO and other Western institutions, and although Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and some Balkan countries have not yet become members of the North Atlantic Alliance or the EU, there is no such division as existed between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries..
According to Mark Kramer, what we have today is not a new Cold War, but the rivalry of powerful powers, which, in addition to the United States and Russia, should include China and other countries..
“The INF Treaty should have been terminated in the 1990s”
“The INF Treaty was a very valuable and symbolically important treaty in the late Cold War period. It was signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in December 1987, and is a powerful symbol of the rapprochement between the two countries, which has marked a huge change since the early 1980s. After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was no point in maintaining the treaty, ”says Mark Kramer.
According to the American political scientist, almost all major arms control agreements were concluded after the end of the Cold War, with the exception of the INF Treaty, which continued to operate and became a source of tension between the parties. The dispute over the INF Treaty, however, is only a reflection of the existing tension in relations between the United States and Russia..
In a comment to the Voice of America journalist, Mark Kramer explained his point of view as follows: – During the Cold War, the INF Treaty really imposed significant restrictions on the development of new and the elimination of existing missiles. However, as the professor noted, the treaty was the result of a significant improvement in relations between the parties, while at a time of high levels of hostility, arms control was not successful..

China vs USA: Geopolitics of the new Cold war

“Arms control, of course, can play a useful role, but I suspect that its current decline is not only withdrawal from the INF Treaty, but, for example, Russia’s withdrawal from the CFE Treaty – the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe – and the disappearance of these agreements does not matter so much in the relationship, since the relationship itself is determined by other factors. Arms control is only a limited buffer for relations, but not a replacement for their political content, ”the professor said..
He also expressed the point of view that the US decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty is justified not only because of violations of its terms by Russia, but also in connection with the unlikely that China, which is not bound by the treaty and develops missiles prohibited by it, will show interest in negotiating the extension of an existing or concluding a new treaty.
“I think China should be the initiator of an idea that could possibly bring the United States and Russia back to reviving the treaty. But at the moment, I think this agreement is practically dead, “says Mark Kramer..

  • Valeria Jegisman

    Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington DC and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Interior Ministry. Interests – international relations, politics, economics

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