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The Cold war type confrontation between U.S. and Russia dates back to the Cold War era. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s saw primary steps toward cooperation between these two nuclear powers, even after President Vladimir Putin first came to power at the turn of the century the relations remained strong until 2006 when the USA tried to cross the red lines of Russia with a new agenda of expanding NATO eastwards to the borders of Russia which threatened Moscow in its exposure to the Nuclear-powered Military bloc.
The 2011 NATO-led intervention in Libya and Western involvement in Syria were perceived by Russia as undue interference abroad. The 2014 uprising in Ukraine in the form of a euro maidan protest backed by the CIA can be seen as a turning point in USA-Russia relations. This 2014 protest in Ukraine alarmed Moscow regarding a possible takeover of the Crimean peninsula as a NATO naval hub which pushed Russia to annex Crimea and led to the worsening of the relationship to its lowest point since the end of the Cold war.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has caused new tensions between US and Russia, followed by heavy sanctions that the United States and its European allies put on Russia, including cutting off Russian banks from SWIFT, and Western companies’ withdrawal from the Russian market, etc. There exist many questions regarding the culmination of the new confrontation between these two superpowers and this essay tries to analyze the nature and tries to answer the possible outcomes as if this confrontation would lead to a new world order which opposes the western hegemony and does this starts a new cold war.
The U.S. and Russia conduct their overseas missions relations and lock horns on a number of international hot topics from the war in Syria, and Indo-Pacific and attempts to improve strategic stability between the world’s top two nuclear weapons powers.
According to many scholars in Russia and America, the confrontation can’t be simply defined as a “New Cold War”. Firstly, the world order is changing into a multipolar order with numerous players. Some players like regional organizations, small states, and non-state actors are becoming more and more significant, while great powers like Russia and US increasingly rely on them. Secondly, there are no conflicts of ideology. Russia and the United States are not aiming to annihilate each other, thus their very existence is not a real threat to each other. Thirdly, Russia and the US have common interests on some international issues, such as terrorism and Islamic extremism. Therefore, it is not appropriate to recognize the nature of this new confrontation as a “Cold War”. However, the relations are still confrontational, and this is a systemic confrontation.
In the current scenario, there exists various reason for this confrontation that needs to be discussed. First, different visions of world order as a root cause. After ending the Cold War, Russia and US failed to agree on the world order that followed. After the coming of Vladimir Putin to the helms of power in Moscow Russia tries to project its power in the world with its Economic and Military might which threatened the United States Hegemony in the International world order. Moreover, there exist serious confrontations regarding the Russian influence in the European Union sphere, especially in the eastern European countries.
Second, both sides consider the internal aspects of each other as the cause of the problem. Some scholars in America link the Russian behavior to the state of its domestic regime (Putin’s problem), As the US considers that Putin as the head of Russia is a threat to the western hegemony and to the US interests in different parts of the world regions of the world, such as the Middle East and in the Indo-Pacific Region.
Finally, in the Ukraine crisis, the vital interests of Russia have been threatened, which caused Russia to respond in an extreme way through a special military operation in Ukraine. Both Russia and the US regarded each other’s actions on Ukraine as a systemic challenge to each other, and in some kind of a declaration of a proxy war between these two nuclear powers. Moreover, Russia sees the NATO expansion to its borders as a threat to its very existence and for the USA it’s just a way to create a scenario to regain its credibility and existence in Europe.
US-Russia relations can be seen as the tensest one for the coming days as, both states have acquired a new more or less stability and what they fight for, and none of the sides is ready for substantial compromise in the ongoing conflict.
The new fight between Russia and the US-led west will make new arenas of International politics and this will help the two superpowers to engage in their sphere of territories. This can also lead to the creation of new geopolitical waves in Europe and Asia which can be seen in many evolving relationships between nations like China with Russia and the Chinese push to solve the matters with India. Although the current confrontation between USA and Russia can’t be seen as a new cold war, this can be taken as a point in history when the new powers in the world order will rise to oppose the idea and ideology of the USA and move for more multipolar world order. It is very unpredictable that the US would agree with the newly evolving vision of world order and cooperate with Russia on key issues, which makes this confrontation be prolonged to an unforeseeable future.
(Davis Vavachan is pursuing his M.A in International Relations (Multilateral Diplomacy) from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). His areas of interest include Peace and Conflict Resolution and Indo-Pacific Geo-politics. The views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of C3S.)