Vladimir Putin is ready for a Second Cold War

Putin’s criticism of American rhetoric is not new at all, it is predictable. But it does not suffer from lack of reason, facts and good sense

Maria Dubovikova

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On July 1, 2014 a conference of Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives was held. The speeches of the President in these meetings have already become a tradition. Such speeches give us more tactical information and current dimensional developments on the country’s foreign policy plans.

The first very important point coming out from the speech was that Russia is ready for a Second Cold War and that it won’t be the first to start it, nor make steps to stop it. We’ll hardly see essential concessions in its foreign policy. The speech also shows that Russia is ready for more tensions and tougher confrontations, as it has a strong will to protect its national interests and rights of its compatriots living abroad, by all possible means within international law. And in all probability, the tougher the counterparts will press on Russia, the tougher it will react.

But while being ready for this escalation, Russia is seeking to de-escalate tensions with Europe, as Europe is its “natural and most significant trade and economic partner.” Russia is mostly concerned with the safety of natural gas supplies to its European partners. The attempts to politicize this issue by the Ukrainian government during the past decade, are forcing Russia to hurry up with the realization that it must launch an alternative natural gas supplies project. With Europe, Russia is ready to communicate and cooperate. Russia has nothing to accuse Europe of. And practically the two partners have little reasons to have quarrels about. Their interests do not contradict. Mostly the clashes are in fields where U.S. interests are present, as in case of NATO.

Us and the U.S.

One more remarkable point about this speech was that Putin is drawing a line between “us” and “them”, meaning “us” – Europe and Russia, and “them” – the United States. This line is felt in criticisms of the U.S.’s pressure on European countries over their partnership with Russia. It is felt when he speaks about the failure to convince Poroshenko, “that the road to a secure, stable and inviolable peace cannot lie through war”. He specially stresses the failure of whom he is talking about – “of his colleagues in Europe and himself”.

Putin’s criticism of American rhetoric is not new at all, it is predictable. But it does not suffer from lack of reason, facts and good sense

Maria Dubovikova

The division is not only drawing a line between Europe and the Americans. There is also a division that groups Russia with China and Eurasian Unity and the Americans with NATO.

Putin’s criticism of American rhetoric is not new at all, it is predictable. But it does not suffer from lack of reason, facts and good sense.

In this context, next year’s 40th anniversary of the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe is remarkable, especially taking into account the recent tendency of Russia’s efforts to revive OSCE and give it a new life. The principles laid out in 1975 mostly correspond to Russia’s current vision of stable international cooperation:

I. Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty
II. Refraining from a threat or use of force
III. Inviolability of frontiers
IV. Territorial integrity of States
V. Peaceful settlement of disputes
VI. Non-intervention in internal affairs
VII. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief
VIII. Equal rights and self-determination of peoples
IX. Co-operation among States
X. Fulfilment in good faith of obligations under international law

It’s already evident from the speech that Russia will try to push forward a “new old” idea of creating a common European security space, from Lisbon to Vladivostok, based on the old principles and sure, it should be based on the OSCE.

The logic of these steps is quiet clear – to limit U.S. influence in Europe, to prevent the U.S. from imposing its will on European states and reduce its influence on the regional security issues. Within NATO – U.S. is a leader, it feels comfortable within the Alliance. The OSCE, with its fundamental principles is a different story. Another question is how Russia sees the co-existence of the modern NATO and possibly revived OSCE, if their policy-making philosophies are different.

And although Putin declared the importance of Russia-U.S. relations for the whole world and declared that Russia has no intentions to shut down these relations, it’s naïve to expect them to improve in the near future. Russia doesn’t consider itself to be responsible for their deterioration and the U.S. doesn’t feel guilty about it as well. And possibly this state of affairs will worsen, as none will make concessions.

The last point, that should be mentioned is the fact that the current Iraqi crisis was mentioned only once in the context of regions with instability and security problems. The lacerated Middle East for the moment is not a battlefield for world leadership. Europe is. Asia is.

Russia’s confirmed “turn” to the East and the intensification of ties with China may conflict Russian-European ties, but it gives an image of the dominant axis of Russia’s foreign policy, the axis of its vital interests. And the construction of a new international system will be based on it. The game has already begun.


Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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