Ideas

Trump, Putin And The False Definition Of A 'New Cold War'

The bipolar world of yesteryear is gone. In its place is a shifting geopolitical landscape of circumstantial alliances and ascendant authoritarianism.

"Democracy has outlived its usefulness"
Dominique Moisi

-OpEd-

PARIS — "Impossible peace, improbable war." That's how — using his way with words and talent for synthesis —French philosopher Raymond Aron defined the Cold War. Peace was impossible given what he called "the heterogeneity of the planetary system." War was improbable because of the "balance of terror" in the nuclear age.

With a little wisdom and a lot of luck, the war remained cold despite peripheral conflicts and dangerous escalations such as the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. For all intents and purposes, the logic of the blocs functioned satisfactorily — until the fall of the Berlin Wall, of course, and its direct consequence: the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

From the early 1990s until 2014 and the forced annexation of Crimea by Putin's Russia, the world went through a much shorter second phase, which historians of tomorrow may define as a transition period between two worlds. With the fall of the USSR, peace had become "possible" again. The brutal break-up of Yugoslavia also provided immediate evidence that war was "less improbable." The years 1990-2014 were thus a period of lost illusions and recovered fears.

Since 2014 and the redrawing of Europe's borders by force, we have entered a new world. We see its perils ever more clearly but, due to a mixture of intellectual laziness and a desire to reassure ourselves, we define this moment as a new Cold War.

In reality, the world we have entered conjures up the 19th-century European balance of power — with more nuclear weapons and less strategic vision — more than it does the artificial simplicity of the Cold War world. There are no more blocs. The bipolar world is no more. Instead, there are imperfect, often circumstantial alliances in a multipolar world.

We define this moment as a new Cold War.

The Atlantic Alliance, in the time of Trump and varying versions of populism, is no longer what it was. The dialogue between Beijing and Moscow is too unbalanced in the long term to be sustainable. Wanting to prove the superiority of authoritarian systems over a decadent democratic West alone doesn't constitute a body of strategic doctrine.

At a time when brute force is being used shamelessly, how can we hide behind the idea that the war will remain cold? The Cold War pitted a revisionist bloc behind the USSR against a bloc in favor of the status quo behind the United States. In the time of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, almost everyone — with the notable exception of Europe — seems to have switched to the revisionist side.

We will know, by May 12 at the latest, whether the U.S. will denounce the nuclear deal signed with Iran in 2015. Even if Donald Trump remains totally unpredictable, most observers now believe that Washington's denunciation of the agreement is the likeliest hypothesis. And as the Syrian conflict becomes ever wider, it becomes the field of application for all abuses, if not the matrix of the coming chaos. Could it be some sort of Putinization of the world?

Erdogan's Turkey is rushing into the breach opened by Russia. Nothing beats the use of force to achieve one's ends. Ankara intends to use military force to suppress any interest not only in Kurdish independence but even limited autonomy. Since there's no arbitrator who imposes peace any longer, no forum that indicates the law, the worst becomes possible, if not probable.

A bad wind blows on the world, and it could be summarized as follows. At a time when the democratic model is increasingly contested, the belief in the virtues of diplomacy seems ever weaker. Everything is happening as if these two pillars of rationality had become the main victims of a cynical and impulsive age as if we could only react to the complexity of the world with brutality and simplism.

This is no longer a time for diplomacy, it is a time for force.

During the Cold War — the real one — the revisionist camp could always find some support among those on the status quo side thanks to the Communist ideology, which sheltered the Russian imperial cause behind the banner of Socialist revolution. Today, with the desperate quest for stability in the face of the jihadist threat, the challenge posed to democracy in an increasingly heterogeneous world that seems to benefit nobody but the rich and powerful, and the embers of anti-Americanism awakened by Washington's chaotic drift, all the conditions are being met to provide Russia and its authoritarian model with multiple fellow travelers. Except these days, the revisionists aren't drawing support despite the prevailing despotism, but because of it. Backers find the authoritarian nature "reassuring."

It's a strange world in which for too long we haven't been able to see the Russian forest for the jihadist tree. And the Russian forest itself probably hides a bigger Chinese one. How can we set limits to this existential drift? Our relationship with nuclear power itself has changed. The absolute weapon no longer has the deterrent power that it had in the aftermath of a world conflict that ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With the passing of time and the diversification of threats, from terrorism to cyber attacks, the absolute weapon has become more abstract.

It is true that Vladimir Putin's triumphant re-election can lead some people to dangerous conclusions. Democracy has outlived its usefulness. The Liberal West is dying right before our eyes. This is no longer a time for diplomacy, it is a time for force. We know better than to respond to the complexity of the world with simplistic reflexes. But what can we do when the bad example now comes as much from Washington as from Moscow?

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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