Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Cold War mentality returns

               I have had to take some time to deal with things cascading through my life. I am back.

The world has been throwing chaos, terror and confrontations about, swirling with seemingly a new atrocity daily.

Russia, under ex-KGB member Vladimir Putin is flexing it's muscles trying to rebuild the Soviet Empire.

With the Russian led and financed separatist movement in the Ukraine resulting in the acquisition of Crimea the specter of a renewed Cold War has made the Russian Bear cast a shadow across Europe and Washington D.C. I am actually surprised it has taken Putin this long. Russia has a long history on the Crimean peninsula.

The Brits, France and the Ottomans allied to oppose the Russians as they waged a war in Crimea during the 1850's.

Russia was moving onto the world stage as they collided with France over privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the Holy Land. This followed a confrontation with the Ottoman Empire over Russia protecting the members of Orthodox faith in the Ottoman Empire.

The Russians invaded what is now Romania.

 The British fleet deployed to Constantinople(Modern Istanbul). Following the Russian fleet defeating the Turks in the Black Sea saw the British and French Navies deploy to protect Turkish shipping there. A few months later both Britain and France declared war on the Russian Empire.

To placate and prevent the Austrian Empire from entering the fight, the Russians withdrew from Romania. The Austrians promptly occupied those principalities, preventing the Ottomans from moving back in.

Battles were fought in Crimea with the engagement at Balaklava inspiring Tennyson's "Charge Of The Light Brigade".

With Austria threatening to enter the conflict on the Allied side Russia came to the table and signed Treaty of Paris.

Russia has historically been fixated on having a warm water port to project naval power across the globe. The Black Sea has always been a focus of that policy.

One effect of the Crimean War was to convince the Russian Czar, Alexander II of the need to modernize Russia to compete on the European stage.

Florence Nightingale helped revolutionize battlefield medicine during the conflict.

The war also led to Austria becoming more dependent on British and French support. This indirectly led to the unification of Italy, and more importantly to Europe's future, the unification of Germany.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, NATO expanded, welcoming former Soviet satellites into NATO to fill the vacuum. since 1990 Russia has watched themselves be surrounded by NATO. The result is a resurgence of an expansionist mindset in Moscow.

Putin has pushed Russia into an attempt to rebuild there influence. They are active in former client states such as Syria and Iran. They are again wielding influence on the world stage to counter what they feel is a policy of containment by the West. Knowing there is zero likelihood of military action by NATO Russia has fought an ongoing war against Chechnya separatists even as they moved on Georgia and now Ukraine.

The response from Washington has covered the spectrum from thoughtful to the absurd.

We hear Republicans rattling sabers, longing for a renewed Cold War. They condemn President for a lack of action for relying on sanctions. It's not as if there is a choice.

What the Republican's seem to forget, either through ignorance or willful omission, is that Russia still has a massive nuclear capability. They also have the second largest Air Force and an impressive Army. We managed to survive the Cold War with only two direct military standoffs with the USSR. The Berlin Airlift and the Cuban Missile Crisis. We fought proxy wars, developed spheres of influence, and had counterbalancing alliances.

The post Soviet era saw the diminishing of Russian power and influence. Putin has made the reestablishment of Russia as a world power and counter to America as the dominant global influence. And there is little we can do about it.

We have only sanctions and application of global opinion to deter Russia from too many adventures in shifting the global balance of power. We survived the post WWII era without destroying the planet in a nuclear Holocaust.

One can only hope sanity prevails, our luck holds and the hawks don't force us into their apocalyptic, second coming end of the world fantasies.

It may be time to dig new fall out shelters. Teach duck and cover again. Or we can painfully relearn the lessons of the 50 year Cold War.

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