The new Cold War?

By Ben Hoffman

A skeptic may look at the so-called Orange Revolution occurring in Ukraine and think that there is something bigger going on. Indeed, a conspiracy theorist might look at it and become worried about a resurgence of the Cold War. The fact is, the dispute is very similar in form to the proxy wars fought by America and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Not all of us are skeptics or conspiracy theorists, however, and it doesn’t seem too likely that either party originally involved in the Cold War has much interest in molding the conflict anew.

To pick apart the nitty-gritty details of the conflict in Ukraine, one must first understand the parties and interests involved; for instance, a special respect must be paid for which candidates are being supported by Mother Russia and the good ol’ U.S. of A.–socialist and Kremlin-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovich for the former; capitalist Viktor Yuschenko politically backed by the latter.

It does not help those trying to argue against a Cold War theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin has dumped millions of dollars into his interest in Yanukovich, or that the vote was reportedly tainted (Yanukovich’s party supposedly burned ballot boxes, intimidated voters and used fading ink to make ballots appear spoiled.) Particularly, Putin has been effective in undoing almost all that former President Boris Yeltsin did in de-centralizing post-Soviet Russia, and this seems to suggest a disturbing trend: Ukraine is being “bought out” by a Russia that is trying to de-evolve.

Faced with the threat of a European Union that has consistently gained strength since the collapse of the Soviet Union, maybe this apparent de-evolution makes sense. By antagonizing the E.U., Russia can make sure that it doesn’t suffer economically with the union’s gain in power. Or maybe Russia is simply using direct methods to make sure former block countries really have its best interests at heart. It could also be that the Motherland simply wants to erect a barrier of allied nations–a buffer zone–as it consistently has in the past. These are all viable reasons for Russia to support the conflict in Ukraine in the manner it has been.

Conspiracy theorists might say that these attempts at explanation are merely trying to de-legitimize the problem that is actually at hand. They might say that Russians are getting back into the business of being dirty commies, that Russia is buying itself a new Iron Curtain. In this case, we may as well get used to the idea of a Ukrainian civil war erupting, and a subsequent restarting of the Cold War. This vision is bleak indeed, and also a case of the slippery slope fallacy.

It is much more likely that too much is being read into the Orange Revolution on the other side of the globe. Putin can’t seriously want to start a war, especially not when the recent fervent displays of wartime enthusiasm that comprise America’s war on terror are brought into mind. Another Cold War would surely mean the death of Russia, so why risk it? It seems much more reasonable to assume that this is a minor skirmish, one that should make us happy we don’t have to deal with such entangled “zone of interest” politics in our own elections.

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