Around the course of the last several years, geopolitical tensions all over the world have increased. A great number of pundits are of the opinion that a new Cold War is on the verge of breaking out between the United States of America, the current global hegemon, the growing China, and Russia, the former superpower.
On the one hand, Russia’s military assertiveness in Ukraine and the wider Middle East, as well as China’s growing strategic and territorial claims in its neighborhood, appear to be challenging the foundational logic of the post-Cold War security order. This has led many analysts to wonder if we’re going back in time. It would appear that the recent deterioration in relations between the United States and China and Russia as a result of the COVID-19 breakout has given credence to the hypothesis that we are currently on the cusp of a new cold war. Anti-Western and anti-American attitude has arisen in both Moscow and Beijing in response to the fact that China and Russia pose the largest severe dangers to the security of the United States. In what ways are the escalating geopolitical confrontations between the United States, Russia, and China similar to the original Cold War that took place between Moscow and Washington.
Many analysts hold the opinion that the United States, which now holds the position of global hegemon, will not tolerate the further rise of China or the increasing aggressiveness of Russia since both pose a challenge to American hegemony. As China’s ultimate strength increases, Chinese authorities will seem more emboldened to pursue more strong policies internationally and claim more hegemonic control in their region and worldwide. This trend is expected to continue so long as China continues to make economic progress. China will challenge the United States’ preeminence in East Asia and strive to weaken the United States’ ability to contain China’s rise to power. To ensure that other countries look to Beijing rather than to Washington for their future, China will continue to expand its military, economic and technological dominance while also forging interdependent partnerships with a large number of countries. This will include long-standing American allies.
The United States will ultimately embrace a coherent strategy in which its primary focus will be to assist in limiting China’s growing global influence and improving defense coordination with traditional American allies in Europe and Asia. This will happen at some point in the future. Since Obama’s second term, American attempts to curb China’s rising international weight have escalated. Such practices may continue under Biden.
Ideological and normative conflicts between China, Russia, and the U.S. may make trilateral strategic reconciliation difficult. The liberal U.S. will undoubtedly see China’s rise as an existential threat. Ideological divisions between Russia and western liberal democracies will impede sustained collaboration. In my opinion, the strain that exists between major powers now is not the same as the tension that existed between Moscow and Washington when the cold war first began.
The first “cold war”
During the Cold War, the US and USSR had a global strategic-military clash. The two superpowers used a strategic-military approach toward each other and other system participants. Non-military problems were minor or acquired relevance in important parties’ material power calculations. During the Cold War, military and strategic matters were considered the actual material of statecraft. As long as superpowers had a second-strike capability, the deployment of nuclear weapons would result in Armageddon, according to mutually assured destruction. Stability during the Cold War was based on nuclear deterrence. Nuclear weapons ensured there would be no direct military clash between the two countries.
Second, the global strategic map was developed to show that the US was the hegemonic force in the first world and the USSR in the second. The fact that the U.S. provided worldwide public goods as a benign hegemon didn’t make it the unchallenged global sheriff. The communist camp challenged the U.S.’s global hegemony, and vice versa.
Third, Washington and Moscow dominated their respective camps throughout the first Cold War. Their camp leadership remained unopposed despite periodic European outbursts. Due to the strong American determination to contain the Soviet danger at all costs, German attempts to cultivate more cooperative ties with the Soviet Union and French initiatives to create a strategically independent European Third Force failed. Americans opposed any effort to erode their strategic supremacy in the west. Moscow suffocated internal communist challengers, as the violent suppression of rallies in Hungary and Czechoslovakia showed. During the Cold War, the capitalist and communist alliances were cohesive.
Fourth, the Cold War divided the globe not just because the US and USSR were strategic and military adversaries but also because of ideological and economic disparities. The American message to the world emphasized liberal democracy and a free market economy, while the Soviet message promoted communism as the sole remedy for capitalism’s social, political, and economic ills. Cold War ideas and storylines clashed.
Fifth, throughout the time of the Cold War, communications here between two blocks were limited. Because of the limited degree and scope of globalized operations between the west and the east, significant civilian efforts favoring a resilient détente or a common identity under which a truly global society could grow were not possible. Since the process of globalization was in its infancy at the time, global identity and consciousness were very unlikely. The western region and the eastern region had a little amount of commercial contact. Walls served to divide the two different worlds. The sides made efforts to avoid physical contact with one another.
Both of the blocks competed against one another in the Third World. The countries that chose to remain outside of the liberal and communist blocks adopted policies of non-alignment and took precautions to safeguard their recently attained independence from neocolonialism. Asia, Africa, and South America are where you’ll find third-world countries. The majority of nations that make up the Third World, particularly China, were not incorporated into global centres of economic and political power in such a way that would have rendered their economic destinies dependent on those of the First or Second Worlds. All three planets were autonomous.
The world today
Today’s world is different from the one seen above. First, the West and Russia no longer compete globally. Today, the U.S. and Russia are in a geopolitical contest over NATO’s expansion and Russia’s Middle East countermeasures. The West views Russia as a declining nation, if not a regional one.
Second, the era of unipolarity that lasted until the 1990s is ended, and we no longer survive in a bipolar world. The Russia and the United States are not the uncontested leaders of almost any group of states that share the same strategic thinking and ideological objectives as one another. Even the preeminence of the United States in western lands is not a given. Neither members of NATO nor members of the EU are prepared to cede the leadership role in Europe to the United States. The idea that there are two Wests has gained popularity during the past three decades. When viewed from Russia, neither does the EEU nor any other regional programmes headed by Russia have been par with the old Warsaw Pact, which was once a symbol of Russian dominance over a large group of countries.
We live in a multipolar world where global players are interconnected on many issues. Cross-cutting, overlapping, multidimensional, and multidirectional links have made the world smaller and more linked than ever before. The Cold War period was more divided than now. In today’s multipolar world, many actors have many connections at once. On some topics, they collaborate while also being competitors or foes. New norm: frenemy-like relationships in segmented structures
Third, global powers no longer engage in ideological contests. Despite the challenges China’s “digital authoritarianism and state-led capitalism” and .Russa’s “sovereign democracy” pose to the liberal world order, both nations are now well embedded in the global capitalist system, and they can attribute much of their economic success and ongoing progress to the strong relationships they have with nations that practice capitalism. China and Russia may have different models of capitalism than the West. This isn’t to downplay the value disparity between western powers and growing non-western countries, nor is it to imply that the Soviet Union’s collapse ended history. This suggests that ideological differences won’t impact future great power interactions.
Finally, global regionalisms are rising. Despite indigenous variables driving the speed and extent of distinct regionalisms in different regions of the globe, regional experiences draw from one another, and their boundaries are porous. Growing economic interconnectedness and transnational exchanges will likely “moderate” global strategic rivalries and contests.
It is possible that the inability of the western world to defeat Covid-19, the Brexit, the emergence of populist as well as anti-globalization mobility in the larger transoceanic area, and indeed the disintegration of liberal democracy have all contributed to a weakened position of the western world in comparison to China and other non-western countries. On the other hand, China may have been emboldened because of the increase of its material might capabilities to progressively dispute the supremacy of the west in international affairs. Nevertheless, the conclusion that we are rapidly approaching a second round of the cold war is not a foregone one.
Deedage Anwar is a student at the University of Balochistan studying in international relations, He works as a freelance analyst and researcher. He is interested in case studies of war and peace, and his area of specialization is international law, peace and security and liberal international order. He can be reached at [email protected]