This weekend, Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister of Russia, told a peace conference in Germany that strains between his country and the West have pushed the world "into a new Cold War."
Yet, it was Russia that pushed the world into a new Cold War and possibly into a new world war years ago.
Exactly when the new Cold War started is as unsure as when did the original Cold War started. Although Cold War historians generally trace the start of the Cold War to the end of the Second World War, I argue that it began before, as early as the Yalta Conference in 1944 when Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin met to outline what Europe would look like after World War II.
The period between the 1950s and the early 1980s was punctuated by Soviet backed "hot wars" costing tens of thousands American lives and hundreds of thousands civilian lives.
Together U.S. losses in Korea and Vietnam exceeded the First and Second World Wars. In the summer of 1950, troops from the Soviet puppet regime in North Korea stormed across the border between North and South Korea in an effort to bring the entire Korean peninsular under communist control. The same occurred in Vietnam when Soviet backed troops sought to control South Vietnam.
During the Cold War, there were numerous efforts by the Soviet Union to export Communism throughout the World. The closest to the United Stares was Soviet support of the Castro regime in Cuba.
When Ronald Reagan was elected president, he vowed to defeat communism. He assigned his principal strategists, Edwin Meese, William P. Clark, and Bill Casey to serve on the National Security Council. They were tasked to develop a plan to fight the spread of communism throughout the world.
The Reagan team was successful. Poland and other Soviet controlled countries Eastern European broke away from Soviet control. The Berlin wall came down.
On Dec. 31,1991 the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The World rejoiced — the Cold War was over.
Not so fast, in 1996, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, retired and moved to Moscow to enter Russian politics. He rose quickly in Boris Yeltsin's administration to be acting president.
When Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned, Putin and Medvedev assumed leadership of the Russian government. Their intent: to build Russia to the world power that the Soviet Union enjoyed. Their immediate objective was to acquire warm water ports to facilitate Russian oil exports. Foreign currency from the export of oil was essential to support the failing Russian economy.
In 2013 a Russian-backed "task force " invaded Crimea, a Russian speaking region of The Ukraine. A month later Russia annexed Crimea. The world did nothing.
The Nuke race between the United States and Russia continues. Latest estimates are that Russia has 1,643 nuclear missiles ready to launch. The United States has 1,642. When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 its entire nuclear stockpile was transferred to Russia. At that time the stockpile of nuclear weapons exceeded 27,000.
Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, the situation was not as tense as the current situation because of the nuclear weapons were under the command and control of the Soviet Union. Today eight countries are confirmed to have nuclear weaponry, several others are suspected of having nuclear capacity.
North Korea has nuclear capacity, and it has recently demonstrated a long-range missile developed with Russian help that put a satellite in orbit. They have tested a device that they claim to be a hydrogen bomb.
North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world over 1.1 million of its 20 million citizens are in the military (another 5 million are in the reserves), it spends 20 percent of its gross national product on its military. There is concern that a terrorist organization which appears to have ready access to oil profits might buy nuclear capacity.
Just this week, U.N. Human Rights officials have called for official notification to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he may be found responsible for crimes against humanity. There have been numerous news reports that senior members of the government including Kim's uncle have either been executed or have dispersed.
Russia continues to use force to expand its influence in Eastern Europe. This week Newsweek has reported that Russia is seeking to control the Suwalki Gap, a narrow strip of land connecting two Ukrainian neighbors, Poland and Lithuania.
Currently the Russians are using their air power to support the government of Syria.
Apparently the communication between their intelligence forces and the military has fallen down. Several day ago a Russian missile targeted a 30-bed hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders killing seven people and wounding scores more. In a nearby village, Russian aircraft, providing cover for a Syrian troop offensive, attacked a school. Russian missiles and aircraft killed 50 people in Syria this weekend.
Presumably, targeting a Doctors Without Borders hospital and a school were accidental. But the war in Syria has, among other atrocities, has resulted in attacks in Christian communities and has forced hundreds of thousands refugee's to flee to Europe breaking down European social service facilities unable to deal with the influx of migrants. In Iraq the Christian population has decreased from 1.5 million to less than 250,000.
Pope Francis has characterized the situation in the Middle East and the terrorism attributed to ISIS as World War III, saying "World War III has begun in a piecemeal fashion." The Pope has also expressed his opinion that the efforts to disable ISIS and other elements of World War III meet the church's definition of a "just war."
We are in a Cold War that is at least as dangerous as the Cold War between the West and the USSR during the 1950s through the 1980s. The difference is, this Cold War is much more complex. Cold War II has not been caused by the West; it has been caused by Russia.
Owen Smith is chairman of the board of trustees at The Institute of World Politics. He has a rich background in local government and taxation. After attaining a law degree from St. John's School of Law, and practicing for 29 years, he spent seven years as deputy county executive of Nassau County, N.Y. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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