This week has seen tensions between Russia and the U.S. escalate over the proposed U.S. missile “defense” shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. As Bush, Putin and other leaders of the world's eight largest economies (G8) were gathered in Germany to focus on climate change, I wondered if they could cool the rising temperature of trans-Atlantic rhetoric.
The current bout of rhetoric between the two former Cold War foes and world superpowers has descended into a clash of immature sociopathic titans, but is there any real danger?
For instance, when Putin threatened on June 3 to retarget his missiles at Europe should the defense shield go ahead, he said:
"We disclaim responsibility for our retaliatory steps, because (he started it) – it is not we who are the initiators of the new arms race, which is undoubtedly brewing in Europe."
Bush responded by disregarding Putin's threat, saying: "Russia's not going to attack Europe." He also said that Putin had "derailed" democratic reforms in Russia, – no doubt further inflaming Putin's anger – before attempting to make Russia look like the (bad guys) who are out to escalate the situation, by saying that the U.S. would not respond militarily to Putin's threat:
"Russia is not an enemy. There needs to be no military response because we're not at war with Russia…Russia is not a threat. Nor is the missile defense we're proposing a threat to Russia."
To be fair, Putin is right, Russia did not start the current chain of events, but they have played their part in its arriving at this point.
The “War on Terror” has now become a battle for the world's dwindling but increasingly valuable resources. The U.S. was first to seize the moment and begin attempting to take control of some of the world's largest oil reserves. Let's not forget that Russia has its own oil and gas reserves, whereas the U.S. has less by comparison.
In seeking to rectify this, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, partly to force Al Qaeda from their Taliban ruled haven, but also to ensure that the U.S. would harness Afghanistan's potential for a massively profitable pipeline between the vast resources of the Caucasus and financially wealthy but resource-hungry Asia. No doubt Russia's intention when the U.S. was instrumental in their Afghan invasion failing in the 80's.
So, the U.S. succeeded where Russia failed: they took control of Afghanistan's massive resource revenue potential, and they did so without Russia noticing – under the cover of destroying the perpetrators of 9/11. Russia awoke when the Afghan invasion was quickly followed by the U.S. taking control of some of the world's largest oil reserves in Iraq.
So, when it seemed like America was going to use Iran's fledgling nuclear program as justification to take control of their massive reserves next, and by monopolizing the world's remaining resources, Russia decided to take their stand by supporting Iran.
They did this by vetoing U.N. resolutions against Iran, supported by China. When the U.S. was hiking up the rhetoric about Iran needing to stop Uranium enrichment or that an attack was on the table, Russia began assisting them in building a nuclear reactor. And when talk of U.S. or Israeli air strikes against Iran being imminent was circling the globe, Russia sold Tor-M1 missile defense systems to Iran. Systems specifically designed to target and destroy American missiles – bought and used by Israel – before they reach their target.
When the U.S. slapped its own sanctions on Russia over the arm sales to Iran, economically fragile Russia was forced to become a little more cooperative, and we saw the first U.N. sanctions against Iran.
But by that time the deliveries had been made. Russia had equipped Iran with advanced technology and crippled the effectiveness of any potential U.S. air campaign against Iran.
In the western world, readers of the mainstream media still thought that the U.S. and Russia were allies, with differences over Iran. Away from the mainstream media in strategic planning rooms in the White House and the Pentagon, in supporting Iran, Putin had shown that Russia knew the inevitable war for resources had begun and was ready and willing to fight for its share.
Next came the proposal for a U.S. missile defense shield right on Russia's doorstep: With satellites in space and radar systems in the Czech Republic to detect and target incoming missiles, and interceptor missiles in Poland to destroy them.
The project is being presented as protection against a missile attack from rogue states like Iran and North Korea. But Iran is far from having missiles capable of reaching Israel, let alone America, and North Korea would almost certainly attack over the shorter Pacific route. So there is no need for a shield for the given reasons.
The U.S. asked Russia to take part in the project, and maintain that it is not designed to threaten Russia. But in the behind-the-scenes climate of the resource war, with U.S. knowledge that Russia is unhappy to relinquish its hold on the former Soviet satellite states, and Russia's understandable doubts about the given reasons for the shield, there is no way Russia will let the project go ahead without a fight.
The real question is: with rhetoric returning to Cold War levels, should we stock up on supplies and start building our fallout shelters? My answer is no.
The Cold War was an uncomfortable and deeply frightening time for all involved. Every country with nuclear capabilities sides knew that if an attack was launched, not much would be left by the time the radioactive dust settled. Everyone was on constantly heightened alert, nerves shattered and trigger fingers shaking on every dispute – false alarms and a general fear that Armageddon could be just around the corner. Neither side wanted a war but feared the other could attack at any minute.
The same basis remains. Both sides know the consequences of an all-out nuclear war between them, and it is still safe to say that neither side wants that. So it is also safe to say that neither country wants to return to Cold War status.
But neither will Putin nor any Russian premier allow such a U.S. defense shield in two former Soviet states. So, under a megalomaniac with the mind of a child that is Bush, who seems unwilling to give up on his imperialistic dreams of the New American Century, the U.S. will continue on this path towards calling Russia's bluff: installing missiles on their doorstep and allowing the U.S. to return to the real job of gaining control of the world's resources.
The reason why I am not building my shelter just yet, is that it is unlikely that Bush will be in the White House for long enough for this conflagration to reach critical levels. And it is likely whoever replaces Bush will be forced to take a more liberal approach in order to restore the U.S. image in the eyes of the world, which is important to most Americans and most U.S. Presidents.
If, God forbid, whoever becomes the next U.S. President continues on the same path as Bush, we might all need to begin preparing for the next Cold War.