Russia: The Cold War Returns

This is one in a series of essays about current global affairs.

Despite global warming, the Cold War is returning.

Russia, no longer feeling the “deep connection” between then-President Vladimir Putin and America’s former President George W. Bush, now is openly displaying disdain for the United States and the United Nations.

Putin, now Russia’s prime minister and running for a third term as president, not only is backing Syria with words but with weaponry as well.

Both Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution for sanctions against Syria for the ongoing, daily massacres of the Syrian people by their government.

“In Syria there is a massacre,” Israeli Vice-Prime Minister Silvan Shalom recently told CNN. In a meeting February 13, 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu discussed both Syria and Iran, noting the current similarities between the two nations.

One similarity not mentioned in the mainstream U.S. press was that both Syria and Iran are receiving weapons from Russia. While Putin himself has not handed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher to someone in Syria, the same day a shipment of arms bound for Syria was intercepted by the U.S, Putin told the world community that Russia backs Syrian President al-Assad. Iran has long been on the receiving end of both weapons and “nuclear devices,” purportedly for nuclear reactors, from Russia. Yet Iran announced Feb. 14, 2012, that their nuclear bunker was complete — a bunker built for making nuclear weapons. The U.S. Navy said on Feb. 13 that Iran was capable of sea-based suicide attacks similar to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, according to CBS News.

Neither Syria nor Iran is an American ally. While Russia technically is still considered an ally, more questions are being raised about loyalty to the U.S — particularly if Putin is successful in again winning the presidency.

“If he cannot change things and change himself, and I think that will be very difficult for him,” former Soviet Leader and President Mikhail Gorbachev — who ended the Cold War in the 1980s — said in a recent lecture at Moscow’s International University, “I think people will pour out into the streets.” 

Under Putin’s guidance, opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky was banned from the March 4, 2012, presidential election. “[Putin] is convinced that he will win, of course,” said Gorbachev, despite the continuing outcry over the results of the December 4, 2011, parliamentary election in which Putin’s party purportedly won 49.3 percent of the vote.

By placing himself upon the world stage through his orchestration of not only Russia’s elections but the UNSC veto and the strategic armament of both Syria and Iran, Putin has become the face of the return of the Cold War.

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Running Toward War

This is one in a series of foreign policy analysis essays on the current global situation. All material copyright February 2012 by Jace Foster Ink and is written by Jace Foster.

In a calculated, timed move the world has seemingly split into two parts over the past 48 hours, with countries running headfirst into a war that has been building over the last several months.

Russia and China announced February 6, 2012, that they would not be backing sanctions against Syria by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The next day Russia sent their foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to Damascus for talks with Syria’s President al-Assad. Lavrov said, “Syria’s Assad will soon announce [a] date for [a] referendum on [a] new Syrian constitution,” according to Reuters.

Philip J. Crowley, the Omar Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership, said, “Lavrov will create the appearance of an ongoing process so the proverbial dead cat (and dead Syrians) are not laid at Russia’s feet.”

Meanwhile shelling continued in Homs, with dozens lying dead in the streets as the assault by Assad’s troops intensified.

Russia and China are but two in a union that includes aforementioned Syria, Pakistan — once an ally of the United States — Iran and Venezuela.  China began to make inroads into Africa in search of allies on Sunday, February 5, then on Monday offered to help the European Union countries facing economic crises.

As noted in a previous blog, Cuba is still in play, having received regular visits from Venezuelan President Chavez as well as visits from both Pakistan and Iran.

Iran continues to provoke the U.S. — and Israel — with threats of sending nuclear missiles into Israel.  Iran has fired two “dummy” warhead missles and continues to practice war games in the Strait of Hormuz. Last September the U.S. Navy confirmed (in an off-the-record interview that has since been released) that Iran sent a partial fleet — including a nuclear submarine — to the Atlantic Ocean, 50 nautical miles from U.S. territorial waters off the coast of Virginia. The U.S. Naval Fleet docked at the Virginian Coast, “was placed on heightened alert,” according to a USN source who did not wish to be identified. This source confirmed that two U.S. submarines were surreptitiously sent to discover by sonar the specific type of submarine the Iranians were using for what Iran termed “deep-water war games.” The U.S. subs determined Iran was indeed using a nuclear attack sub, according to the USN source.

The timing of these alliances and maneuvers is calculated: the U.S. is viewed as weak because of the upcoming presidential election, as other countries assume President Obama is thinking of nothing other than being re-elected.

Additionally, the aforementioned economic crises that crippled Greece, Turkey and Germany throughout 2011 continue and have spread to other European Union countries. Any military support would be minimal at best.

The Arab Union also is trying to distance itself from “the Syrian problem,” as a spokesman for Jordan said. Having seen the effects of the “Arab Spring” revolutions of 2011, Arab nations are trying to keep peace within their own borders, let alone those they share with other countries.  Turkey, for example, has seen a huge influx of Syrian refugees and has requested humanitarian aid from the United Nations.

Israel, flusterered not only by looming war with Iran, continues to try to make peace with Palestine. Those talks, however, have to date been fruitless.

Although the adage is “time will tell,” in this instance time is moving at a fast clip and in two hemispheres, thus spreading U.S. interests wide. What time will tell is how able the U.S. can respond.

CUBA: Imperative Yet Again

This is part of an ongoing series on current global affairs and alliances

Thirty nautical miles from the Florida coast is a time-bomb choosing sides.

Once a haven for writers, artists and gamblers, Cuba for more than 50 years has been a thorn to the United States.  With Fidel Castro’s coup d’etat came instability and an alignment with the USSR, which nearly brought nuclear war to the U.S. in the 1960s. Then, U.S. President John F. Kennedy saved the U.S. with a last-minute deal with USSR head Nikita Kruschev.

Now under the leadership of Fidel’s brother, Raul Castro, Cuba is crucial once again.  Venezuela’s President Chavez — no friend to the U.S. — makes frequent visits; both Iran and Pakistan also have made visits to Cuba within the past few months.

When asked about America’s position on Cuba the U.S. State Department on February 1, 2012, said, “Our Administration has sought to engage Cuba . . . in interaction to benefit Americans and people of Cuba. [President] Obama announced regulations in 2009 and 2011 allowing greater travel to visit Cuba….Exchange is beneficial to mutual understanding, helps invigorate democratic ideals and civil society interaction.”

However, what the State Department’s response did not address is that Cuba increasingly is becoming more vital as an ally to the U.S. Yet the U.S. is not taking any overt action to begin a political and military alliance with Cuba, whereas Venezuela, Iran and Pakistan are.

With only 30 miles between Cuba and the U.S., can America afford not to proffer diplomatic ties — particularly when another crucial alliance is being formed….

For more on the formation of other world alliances that will greatly affect the U.S., check back here soon.