Russia and the United States: A new Cold War over Ukraine?

A second cold war?
Special military operations
Remember the 1980s?
Growing tensions
Calling Putin 'a killer'
Putin claps back
Showdown in Ukraine
Threats in December video call
Shutting off Nord Stream 2
Suspended
Replacing a Ukrainian pipeline
A warning to Putin
Accusations against US and NATO
Not NATO, but maybe EU
Kremlin vs. NATO
Stoltenberg responds
Prelude to invasion
On the war path
No US troops to Ukraine
Other problems besides Ukraine
Cyberattacks
The Kremlin denies involvement
Election tampering
Innocent, until proven otherwise
The Mueller Report
Migrant crisis in northern Europe
Lukashenko
Europe's last dictator
An important ally
Navalny and others
LGBT rights are also human rights
Calling the kettle black?
Looking for allies
Russia and China: best friends
The Moscow-Beijing entente
Cautious diplomacy
Ready, set and go
A second cold war?

The Cold War was a time of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union because at any moment a real war could start. Now many feel history seems to repeat itself with Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin over Ukraine.

Special military operations

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has caused many in the West to rally against Russia in one way or the other, particularly the United States and the members of the European Union.

Remember the 1980s?

This takes us back  to the days when the world was divided into the Western Powers and the Eastern Bloc. Back then, wars by proxy supported by both superpowers around the globe were a common sight.

Growing tensions

However, even before Ukraine, tensions were growing between the two countries. When Biden and Putin met in Geneva in 2021, US-Russia relations were at the lowest point since the Cold War.

Calling Putin 'a killer'

Joe Biden marked a clear distance from the Trump Administration's attempt to have more cordial relations with Russia. In an ABC interview, he called Putin 'a killer' in March 2021.

Putin claps back

According to Reuters, after being called a killer, the president of the Russian Federation retorted that 'it takes one to know one.'

Showdown in Ukraine

Beyond childish name-calling, the two countries were already locked in an escalating geopolitical holdout over Ukraine. The United States feared at the time that Russia might invade the country, and time has proven them right.

 

Threats in December video call

In a two-hour video call on December 7, US president Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin that his administration would impose “strong economic and other measures” if his troops dared to go through with the invasion.

Shutting off Nord Stream 2

US officials said that the German government would turn off the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline in case Russia invades Ukraine.

Suspended

The German government, headed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, remained true to its word and suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2. Since then, the company Nord Stream 2 AG has gone out of business.

Replacing a Ukrainian pipeline

The pipeline would connect Russia with Germany through the Baltic countries and replace another pipeline that currently goes across Ukraine.

A warning to Putin

US national security advisor Jake Sullivan was quoted by Reuters on December 2021 in very straightforward terms: “If Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine,” Sullivan said at a press conference.

Accusations against US and NATO

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of geopolitical provocations. He repeatedly demanded that NATO expands no further eastward; meaning that it may not invite more eastern countries to its alliance.

Not NATO, but maybe EU

NATO sent invitations to Georgia and Ukraine to form part of the military alliance in 2008. Since the start of the war, as France24 reported, Ukraine is no longer seeking membership in the military alliance but has instead approached joining the European Union.

Kremlin vs. NATO

A statement from the Kremlin in late 2021 and cited by the BBC declared that NATO was making “dangerous attempts to take over Ukrainian territory and increasing its military potential.”

 

(Photo: Michael Parulava / Unsplash)

Stoltenberg responds

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg rejected Putin's accusations. "NATO’s relationship with Ukraine is going to be decided by the 30 NATO allies and Ukraine, no one else," he told the press on December 10. Stoltenberg further requested that Russia "return to diplomacy."

Prelude to invasion

The BBC reported two months before the invasion that the Kremlin mobilized over 90,000 soldiers to the Ukrainian border. The Russian Federation annexed Crimea in 2014 and, since then, was supporting separatist groups in eastern Ukraine.

On the war path

Successful operations in Crimea, Syria, and Georgia emboldened Moscow, experts said at the time. “I think Russia is in the best position since 2014 economically, politically, and militarily to execute such an operation,” Michael Kofman of the US Center for Naval Analyses told the BBC.

No US troops to Ukraine

“Unilateral troops in Ukraine are not on the table,” Biden told reporters at the White House in December 2021. His administration instead has sought to reinforce US military presence in NATO countries.

Other problems besides Ukraine

However, Ukraine is not the only point of contention between the two superpowers.

Cyberattacks

According to the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report, published in October 2021, 58% of all cyberattacks that specifically target government agencies come from Russian territory.

The Kremlin denies involvement

The report highlights that the top three nations affected are the US, the UK, and Ukraine, whose government websites have been hit pretty badly since the beginning of the war. The Kremlin has always denied carrying out these attacks.

Election tampering

The biggest allegation against Russia is that it tampered with the 2016 US presidential elections to ensure the victory of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton.

Innocent, until proven otherwise

These accusations have never been fully proven, apart from some online pro-Trump disinformation campaigns unmistakably coming from Russia.

The Mueller Report

A 2019 investigation done by former FBI director Robert Mueller concluded that Russia interfered in the US elections and that Putin shared many links to Trump. However, there wasn't enough evidence to prove there had been a conspiracy.

Migrant crisis in northern Europe

Another diplomatic issue that put Russia against the United States and the European Union is the migrant crisis between Belarus and Poland in 2021.

Lukashenko

The US accused the Belarusian president and Russian sympathizer Aleksandr Lukashenko of manipulating the path of thousands of Middle-Eastern migrants who are trying to enter the European Union through Poland.

Europe's last dictator

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994 and is widely described in the West, including in official statements by the European Union, as “Europe's last dictator.”

An important ally

Belarus has proven to be an important ally for Russia during the invasion of Ukraine, allowing Russian troops to invade from the north to what was originally referred to as “joint military exercises”.

Navalny and others

Russia's human rights record has also drawn criticism from the international community. Moscow has cracked down on opposition movements and imprisoned some of its leaders, such as Alexei Navalny.

Pictured is Navalny showing up in a Russian court from his jail cell.

LGBT rights are also human rights

There's also the mistreatment of certain minority groups in Russia, such as the LGBTQ+ community. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2021 that the country's anti-LGBTQ laws were inconsistent with the European Human Rights Convention.

Calling the kettle black?

However, Russian apologists are quick to point out the spotty human rights record of the United States and its close ties to certain undemocratic governments, such as Saudi Arabia.

Looking for allies

What is true is that while the United States and the European Union tend to converge in international organizations such as NATO or the G7, Russia has made allies elsewhere. For instance, with Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro.

Russia and China: best friends

Al Jazeera reports that Russia and China have been strengthening their ties and doing joint military drills. In addition, they have had a similar approach to Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. During a 2019 meeting, Xi Jinping called Vladimir Putin his "best friend."

The Moscow-Beijing entente

The relationship between Russia and China was described as “the strongest, closest and best relationship that the two countries have had since at least the mid-1950s. And possibly ever,” by Nigel Gould-Davies, Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, to Al Jazeera.

Cautious diplomacy

However, China has distanced itself from Russia since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, taking a neutral, cautious stance.

Ready, set and go

Cold War or not, it seems the table is set, and the players have chosen their teams. Whatever 'great game' the world powers seem to be playing, let's hope that Ukraine and the rest of humanity don't end up as the biggest loser.

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