Same war, different sides

The new Cold War is the same war where the main players have simply traded places

By DMITRY KOSYREV / Pic By BLOOMBERG

Why all that hatred towards Russia, bordering on obsession? Do we, Russians, understand the nature of the “ice-cold war” unleashed on us by the US, Britain and several other nations?

That was the subject of one of the panel discussions at the annual session of the Council on Foreign and Military Politics, traditionally held in springtime in a countryside resort near Moscow.

I could have described at length the atmosphere at these meetings — dinners with speeches and drinks, orchestras and fireworks on the lawn, old friends reading and discussing each other’s publications — but who cares about it, but us, the members and friends of that club.

The current global tension is something to care about. When one group of nations proclaim another as a threat, that should be a matter of at least some interest to the whole world.

So, it might be interesting to know what Russia’s top experts on foreign affairs think about constant accusations and military provocations against Moscow. And all that — after decades of Russia’s attempts to become friendly with the West, to the extent of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

To put it briefly, the Russian expert community is if not at a loss on that subject, definitely divided on it. Some people claim that the cause of the war is the West, keen on grabbing our Siberian natural resources or depriving the nation of any military might or influence. Which means that the Russian hand of friendship, extended in the early 1990s, just went unnoticed. And then, there is always China as a factor, with Russia siding with it.

While other people are saying that things are not that simple. There is also an ideology to look at.

Here I’m going to retell you my own short remarks at the above mentioned Council’s session.

The Cold War, I reminded my audience, started in the late 1940s, when the Soviet Union became a foe of the West, not because it was attacking or threatening anybody, but because it was a factor in the civil struggle inside the Western societies. Moscow was a communist. Communism was popular in Europe, Asia and even the US. It meant a complete overturn of the traditional lifestyle and political order. In East Europe, Moscow decided to support the local Left against the traditionalists, and succeeded. France and Italy could have been next.

So basically the Cold War was a war of the traditionalist part of the Western world against its own revolutionary forces within, and also against the powers that supported the Left, that powers being the Soviet Union, and later China, and some other nations.

But several decades of communist experience made Russia (and China, and a lot of other societies) hate the very idea of incessant change in lifestyles within societies, not to mention global changes. Now it’s Russia and China and the rest, who found themselves in the position of the conservative West of the 1940s-1950s.

The West is mired again in the almost same old civil war. The Western societies are being bombarded daily by messages of fear and aggression. The people have to be afraid of global warming deniers, men harassing women, also of smokers, sugar-eaters, “racists”…And in each case, people are prodded into hating other people and making their life intolerable.

So parts of such societies started to rebel, they cast the wrong votes at referendums and elected the wrong presidents. Which now puts in doubt the basic idea of the new Communists — that the whole world has to accept their teachings and “values”. To recall, the old Communists in Russia or China also thought globally and never concealed it. All the world was supposed to become red “one day”.

Neither Russia nor China nor anyone outside of the West has any intention of taking part in other nations’ inner wars. We want to be left alone and go our own way, just being ourselves. But the very fact that our whole societies naturally reject the new norms of aggressive Western mind-bashing is enough to regard us as a threat.

Though China’s rise and Russia’s new prominence in the world are definitely unpleasant for some, one should not ignore the fact that it’s the West that is now a global revolutionary power, forcefully changing its own societies into something different. Some Russians are, sometimes even without being aware of it, on the side of those in the West who resist that change.

So the new Cold War, or call it the Ice War, is the same war where the main players have simply traded places. It doesn’t matter what Russia says or does, its main problem is that it’s there, with a society in motion and debate, but united around the same basic values that used to unite the traditional part of the West in the mid-20th century.

  • Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia.