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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 15:44, May 09, 2007
Are we on the brink of a new Cold War?
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The Soviet Union and the United States were sworn enemies during the Cold War, when the wrestle between the two superpowers had the world in constant fear of a "nuclear winter". The two countries enjoyed a short honeymoon period at the end of the war. Today, as the Russian economy grows stronger, the US simply cannot sit back and relax. It must continue to contain the nation to prevent it from rising again. By deploying its National Missile Defense (NMD) system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Washington is no doubt targeting Russia, which has reacted strongly. As the divide between Washington and Moscow over the issue widens, experts on international affairs say the world is perhaps already on the brink of a new Cold War.

NMD geared towards Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has attacked the planned deployment, claiming that it specifically targets Russia and warning that another arms race could be triggered. The US is worrying about Russia, Putin says, rather than "coping with terror and military threats from Iran and North Korea".

If nothing is done, says Putin, the missile system could cover Russian territory as far as the Ural Mountains. The Ural Mountains are the geographical divide between Europe and Asia. Neither terrorists nor Iran or North Korea is capable of building weapons with such a range. Talk of terrorists is even more ridiculous for they resort to far less sophisticated means. By acknowledging this, Putin means to imply that the US's deployment of NMD in Europe threatens all of Russia's territory in Europe.

By citing the crisis triggered by the US's deployment of "Pershing II", a medium-range missile dispatched to Federal Germany during the 1980s, Putin implies the possibility of a new arms race which could potentially lead to "mutual destruction". Putin has indicated that he does not differentiate between the two threats, and that the US's planned missile defense system will fundamentally change the European security system and could lead to mutual destruction.

Russia warns of necessary countermeasures

Putin stressed that Russia would not "panic" if the missile defense system was deployed, but would take "necessary countermeasures". He did not specify what these measures would be. General Yuri Baluyevsky, head of Russian general staff, echoed Putin by saying that US' NMD system in Europe could be the "target of military strikes" by Russia. On April 26, Putin warned that if the US insisted on going ahead with the system, Russia would consider withdrawing from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, a treaty signed in 1990 between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization aimed at checking the arms race by reducing reserves of conventional weapons.

The US and its NATO allies have responded aggressively. Washington has accused Russia of creating tension deliberately to sow seeds of discord within NATO. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that the accusation that the US is targeting Russia directly with its NMD is "ridiculous". NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says Russia's threat of withdrawal will not shake NATO's stance. He did not, however, mention NMD deployment directly, focusing instead on other clashes between Russia and NATO, including issues related to Moldova, Georgia and Kosovo.

Nuclear threat does exist

Russia's threat to withdraw from the Treaty is of course a worry, because if it follows through on it, the likelihood of a new arms race will increase dramatically. Experts therefore say that the possibility of another Cold War does exist.

The balance of military strategies in today's world hinges on a series of treaties reached on arms control and reduction, however, these will expire in the near future, said Dr. Sergei M. Rogov, director of the Moscow-based Institute of USA and Canadian Studies, according to the Russian News and Information Agency.

The Treaty on Reduction and Limitation of Offensive Strategic Arms will expire in two years, the Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Offensive Strategic Arms was aborted and the Treaty on the Reduction of Offensive Strategic Arms will expire in six years. Consequently, the US and Russia will face, for the first time in 40 years, a situation where there are no treaties on the reduction and limitation of offensive strategic arms in place, which means a game without rules could unfold between the two powers.

Rogov believes that the escalated conflict over the missile defense system has brought the world arms control process to a "turning point", and worries about a new Cold War are by no means "much ado about nothing". If we look at US-Russian relations closely, it is clear that we are standing at the edge of a new Cold War.

By People's Daily Online

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