Quarter century after fall, Berlin Wall-like division flourishes again
Twenty-five years after that embodiment of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, was torn down by ecstatic Germans, the world observes the anniversary as it rushes headlong towards a new confrontation.
As the celebration unfolds in Berlin to rejoice in a unified country – and to some extent a unified world – some of the people who shaped the events two-and-a-half decades ago approach the date in a gloomy mood.
“We wasted the chances that the end of the Cold War presented. It started so well, but some people didn’t like it,” Mikhail Gorbachev told RIA Novosti as the former Soviet leader prepared to leave for Germany as an honored guest at the festivities.
The ongoing crisis pitted Russia against the West again in a stand-off involving flights of Russian strategic bombers across Atlantic and practically daily NATO maneuvers in this or that country on Russia’s border.
And it’s not like nobody saw it coming. Moscow has long been irritated with Washington and Co’s military adventures across the world and the build-up of military infrastructure in Europe, which Russia sees as encroachment. And so do some critics of the alliance.
“In fact, one might ask why NATO even continued to exist,” said prominent author Noam Chomsky in an interview with RT. “The official justification for NATO was that its purpose was to defend Western Europe from Russian hordes who might attack Western Europe.”
“Its mission changed. The official mission of NATO became to control the international, the global energy system, pipelines. That means to control the world,” he added.
Many Western countries bear a grudge against Russia for a number of reasons – from no longer following foreign recipes on shaping its political system to transforming from a humbled Cold War loser into a power that aggressively pursues its own interests in the world. The accumulated tension that neither side seemed to want to defuse had to blow out at some point - and it did in Ukraine.
“My firmest belief is that Ukraine is just a pretext the United States picked at. Russia agreed to new relations, created new structures for cooperation,” Gorbachev told Interfax in a separate interview. “It would have been OK, but not everyone in the US liked it. They had other plans; they needed a situation that would allow them to intervene everywhere.”
The crisis in Ukraine is not the reason for the stand-off, but rather the focal point of this confrontation. And it gave politicians justification to say straight out what was previously veiled by euphemisms and omissions. We are rivals. We may even become outright enemies, according to NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, who said as early as in May that the alliance treats Russia “as more of an enemy than a partner” after Ukraine.
And it is not only the military that beats the drums of war now. The media have fallen back to the old Cold War narratives in a heartbeat. In Russia, a leading news anchor infamously thrilled his audience with the idea of reducing America to “radioactive ashes.” In the West, journalists are all too eager to report speculative stories like the hunt for a phantom Russian submarine by Sweden or the 'incursion into UK of a Russian military plane,' which later turned out to be a Latvian aircraft.
Western politicians so far are not branding Russia an ‘evil empire’ or some similarly insulting name. However US President Barack Obama did designate the country as the second-worst threat to the world – not as bad as Ebola, but apparently worse than the Islamic State, a terrorist force brandishing its atrocities in Syria and Iraq. One may wonder how much lower things can get.
A placating thought many commenters hold when speaking on how the current crisis is not a Cold War 2.0 is that there are no ideological components to it. Russia is not a communist state bent on reshaping the world in its image. Now capitalists to the bone, in the end Russian and Western elites can find common ground for the sake of mutual profit, it is said.
But that’s not actually how Moscow sees it. From Russia’s standpoint, American foreign policies are dominated by an ideology of American exceptionalism, a notion that Washington has the best answers to any issue anywhere in the world and has a sacred right to enforce its vision by all means necessary on those who dare to oppose it.
“The Cold War ended, but it didn’t end with a peace treaty, with clear and transparent agreements on keeping the old rules and standards or creating new ones. It appears the so-called winners of the Cold War decided to push forward, to reshape the world according to their whim, to their interests,” Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in his key foreign policy speech at the recent Valdai forum.
“And where the system of international relations, international law, checks and balances stood in their way, they [the Americans - RT] declared it useless, obsolete and subject to immediate dismantling.”
Putin apparently sees the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine as a legitimate response to this Western drive to expand its influence at the expense of Russia. Washington’s campaign to isolate Russia for it is seen as building a new Berlin Wall - a destructive and inefficient endeavor.
So far new walls being erected in Europe are mostly virtual – economic or political. However, a physical embodiment may follow soon, with Ukraine allocating budget money to build a wall along its border with Russia.
The project may be dismissed by critics as nothing but a hyped-up embezzlement scheme. But in the regime of ideas riddled with mistrust and warmongering that we currently live in, it will only help to crystalize them. Unless we recall how badly the original Berlin Wall worked and how long it stood before we finally agreed to tear it down.
Alexandre Antonov, RT