- We are heading for a long period of challenging relations between Russia and the West, in which pragmatic politics will dominate, says Tom Røseth, Fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies.
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Have we already slid into a new Cold War, or are we heading towards it? High North News has asked experts from nine different countries, encompassing the entire circumpolar region. The question polarized respondents.
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- No, this is not a new Cold War, says Tom Røseth, Fellow at the Centre for Asian Security Studies, at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies in Oslo, Norway.
- The present period lacks the ideological divide, and does not have the same depth and scale. A comparison gives misleading associations and can potentially lead to bad policy decisions. Currently, the prospects are somewhat locked, as Russia’s annexation of Crimea is destined to remain a long-term challenge to Russia-West relations, and future developments will depend heavily on how Russia and the West manage Ukraine, Røseth says.
Global dynamics encouraging Russia’s position
- The West and Russia could find common causes on international issues, such as failed state interventions or terrorism, but the most obvious opportunity now, with Syria, seems to have passed. The global dynamics are also encouraging Russia’s position in its opposition to the West. In developing relations with China, Moscow can aspire to project the geopolitical strength it desires in its neighboring states and possibly Europe. However, Sino-Russian relations are not that of a military alliance. Both Moscow and Beijing want to maintain flexibility in their security policies. They have chosen the path of developing a strategic partnership, a looser form of alignment. Moscow is concerned about possible challenges stemming from the rising power of China - but, for now, it is an opportune moment to partner with them, in order to limit Western influence. Besides, after Ukraine, Russia had few other options on the table, Røseth says - before he concludes:
- Russia is still economically dependent on Europe and Moscow would like to improve relations with Europe to regain geopolitical flexibility, but the principal question over Ukraine is a big hurdle. In short, we are heading for a long period of challenging relations between Russia and the West, in which pragmatic politics will dominate.
The new, “normal” Russia
Elana Wilson Rowe, who is a Research Group Leader (Emerging Powers and Global Development, editorial note) and a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) is also concerned with growing mistrust between Russia and the West, and the effects of a weakened geopolitical climate.
- Russian aggression in Ukraine does not mean that Russia will act aggressively along all of its borders, says the NUPI-researcher.
- It is more likely that Russia has two different foreign policies. One for the near area, their zone of interest, one for removed areas, like Norway.
Cold War in a historic concept is just that, she says: Historic.
- Today’s world is so much different, so globalized, so much more information-transparent and economically changed, that I do not see a new “cold war” coming.
- With that said, we have to stress the fact that it was the situation in the 1990s that was exceptional, as Lars Rowe has put it. It was at that time that we thought Russia would become like us, if we showed them the way, how to behave and so on. I think that the Russia we see nowadays is more like the Russia we will see in years to come, the more “normal” Russia.