Today’s state of international affairs can hardly be compared to the era of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union posed an existential threat to the West and Churchill warned of a “shadow hanging over Europe.”
Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England, speaks at Westminster College in Fulton. This was the speech in which he used the phrase "Iron Curtain" in reference to Soviet influence. Photo: AP
March 5 marked the 70th anniversary of the famous Fulton speech delivered by Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In this speech, the British politician who led his country during the World War II outlined the course of the West’s policy toward the Soviet Union, which until that time was an ally in the anti-Nazi coalition.
The Fulton speech, in which Churchill used the term “iron curtain,” is considered to be the symbolic beginning of the Cold War. While the current anniversary of this speech falls at a time when the relations between Russia and the West are not in the best shape, it is difficult to say that they have entered, as some people are claiming, Cold War 2.0, or a repetition of the post-World War II global conflict.
This very definition of the current state of foreign relations as Cold War 2.0 is an indication that neither the politicians nor the public are taking these events quite seriously enough. They are reacting to this current unprecedented aggravation as a game, which will soon end with the unconditional defeat of the one who dared to challenge the might of the West.
What the world was forced to deal with back then, and what is happening now, are two completely different phenomena. Back then, opposing each other were two different philosophical systems, two systemic views on how society should be organized, and on what principles its development should be based on – liberal-capitalist or communist.
The Soviet Union was no less powerful than the United States, and Soviet tanks stood in the center of Europe. The U.S.S.R. was making claims to global hegemony, and the West was a counterbalace. Relations between the Western and Eastern political blocs back were similar to the tense relations that today exist between North and South Korea. These were founded, almost until the beginning of the 1960s, on the denial of the very right to existence of the opponent.
The current conflict is a reflection of the new realities, when some countries, primarily Russia, are not satisfied with the situation that has developed on the international arena after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. According to the Kremlin, the international order that emerged 25 years ago was extremely unfair, as the interests of only one side were fully considered, while the interests of all the others were completely ignored; therefore, a revolt was inevitable.
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Today the problem adds up to the fair distribution of rights in international affairs, and the establishment of a new balance of power. Russia and China are striving to ensure the establishment of fair rules in the international relations game, while the West is trying to maintain its leadership and keep everything as it was since 1991.
The current relations between Russia and the West are extremely difficult, but they completely lack the ideological component. Today's confrontation can probably be called a “Cool War,” as it is taking place under different circumstances, and the warring parties are pursuing other goals, and it is being carried out using other methods.
Today's rhetoric echoes Churchill
The scale of the current tense situation and the situation that existed after World War II are quite different, as different as the rhetoric that was used by Churchill and which modern Western leaders are using today. Back then, the threat from Russia was seen as an existential threat. Churchill, speaking about this threat, used the expression – a “shadow hanging over Europe.”
Today, Western leaders prefer looking at this problem not so seriously, using simplified and personalized rhetoric. After World War II, no one, especially Churchill, would haven even thought of saying that Russia’s policy was just Joseph Stalin’s policy. Now we can see a constant personification of this conflict (in relation to Russian President Vladimir Putin) by the West, and attempts to belittle their opponent, to convince themselves and the public that Russia does not really pose a big problem, and will collapse like a house of cards under the pressure of sanctions.
Even when a year and a half ago U.S. President Barack Obama named Russia as one of three global threats, this was not really that serious a thing. For Obama, this was a simple display of rhetoric, behind which lies a conflict entirely different in meaning than it was in the days of Churchill’s Fulton speech.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.