I wasn’t even thirty years old when the wall came down. Back when the tensions were still dangerously high between the United States and the old Soviet Union I was a young man, spending part of that time in the Navy playing tag with Soviet naval forces. That was a long time ago, and some of you reading this might have been very young at the time, assuming you were born at all. That’s why I was wondering if I’d taken a sharp blow to the head, or perhaps gotten a ride in a DeLorean with a flux capacitor conversion when I awoke today to find Mikhail Gorbachev talking about the Cold War.
Tensions between the major powers have pushed the world closer to a new Cold War, former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Saturday.
The 83-year-old accused the West, particularly the United States, of giving in to “triumphalism” after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the communist bloc a quarter century ago. The result, he said, could partly be seen in the inability of global powers to prevent or resolve conflicts in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and most recently Ukraine.
“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it’s already begun,” Gorbachev said at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, close to the city’s iconic Brandenburg Gate.
Our old pal Mikhail thinks that we need an expanded dialogue with Moscow. Not coincidentally, his remarks were targeted largely at the United States when he said that individual sanctions against prominent Russian officials should be lifted if there was to be any sort of cooperative alignment between the world powers. He’s also clearly worried about the US and the European Union sticking their beaks into the affairs of Ukraine. In fact, for an octogenarian with no remaining power base of his own, Gorbie clearly has a lot on his mind.
The only problem here is that I think Gorbachev has missed the boat. As near as I can tell, we’re already in a new cold war with the Russians, assuming the old one ever actually ended. It’s not as if the fall of the Soviet Union suddenly turned Mother Russia into a flowering hotbed of democracy, no matter how much we might have hoped it would. Oppression and corruption are still rampant in Russia and freedom remains more of a theory than a practice for most of their citizens who are not well connected with the party. The only real difference that I can see is that instead of an Evil Empire, we have more of a Pocket of Evil. Were it not for their decaying stockpiles of tactical weapons, Russia today would be strictly a regional power. Their military capabilities have deteriorated along with their economy.
That doesn’t mean that they are not a threat, nor that they don’t have the potential for metastasizing yet again. Russia is rich in energy resources and unencumbered by regulatory agencies. They ship out product as fast as it can be gotten out of the ground and profit from it quite nicely. And when they face no global opposition from a strong leader, they have clearly demonstrated that they can exercise their current level of muscle. So we have a cold war, but the potential for it flaring up into a global conflagration still seems a bit remote compared to the bad old days.
Nice to hear from you again, though, Mikhail. You’re clearly hanging in there for the long run. Give our regard to Vlad.