More than a decade after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the shadow of the Cold War still lingers on. It can be smelt when the United States and Russia traded harsh criticism recently.
Addressing leaders of some former members of the Soviet Union at the Vilnius Conference 2006 in Lithuania, a gathering of leaders of the Baltic and Black Sea regions, US Vice President Dick Cheney accused Russia of running against democracy, limiting human rights and using its energy riches to "blackmail" the world. His remark was regarded by some western diplomats the strongest criticism against Russia from a senior US official ever since the end of the Cold War. Moscow responded sharply when Gleb Pavlovsky, a senior advisor to the Kremlin, declared: Russia has always believed that the US is seeking for an enemy to maintain its status (as world cop), now we can prove it.
The US has been using various means to expand its sphere of influence since the Soviet Union dismembered. While pressing Russia to change towards the direction it desires, the country has also intensified the casting of influence on former Soviet members surrounding Russia. By supporting pro-west opposition factions in CIS countries, Washington also tried to exert political pressure on Russia through "color revolution". Besides, the US-led NATO also took the chance to push its regime closer to Russia by eastern enlargement.
All these moves have kept on intensifying Russia's worry about geo-political changes. As domestic economy got better Russia has shifted from defense to "attack" by making use of its advantages in energy and military fields. The shadow of the Cold War, it seemed, began to gather secretly. US media labeled the Russian policy in gas fight with Ukraine as an "Empire's counterblow", while business daily Kommersant's front page headline said Cheney's speech "practically established the start of the second Cold War". Obviously, the US and the West are feeling increasingly uncertain and uneasy in the face of the Russian re-rise and Putin's iron politics.
Has a new Cold War really begun? Perhaps it's too early for a conclusion. However, there is no denying that Cold War mentality runs through the US-Russia "squabble". In fact, some westerners have never shaken off their "Cold War outlook". In their eyes, the end of the Cold War just means a success of the West, a success of western ideology and political system, and post-Cold War era means continuously increased western influence.
After the "September 11", the US policy adjustment on national security also followed such concept, as anti-terrorism is closely linked with the pushing of American-style democracy worldwide. Some Americans entered the 21st century with such mentality, and are greatly alarmed by the re-rise of Russia, especially by its stance of not resigning itself to being weakened and its playing of cards regardless of western "game rules".
However, even the Cold War returns, it is unlike the past one. A fundamental change has taken place in the form of confrontation between the two powers. In the past it assumed the form of confrontation between two military groups, and a balance of nuclear deterrence; but now it chiefly shows in infiltration and anti-infiltration of values, frictions in national interests and fight for positions in the world's future political map.
Under the backdrop of economic globalization, interests of the two sides are deeply intermingled, and they need cooperation in many fields such as trade and economy, finance, energy and anti-terrorism. It's impossible for the US to organize again an alliance against Russia while Russia is incapable of overall confrontation with the West and the US. Therefore, despite fierce argument or even wrestle, the two sides will be more engaged in frictions amid consultations and competition amid cooperation, that is, vying with each other yet without breaking off.
(People's Daily Online May 16, 2004)