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Cold War 2.0

The war on terror. Listening to Obama and McCain campaign, you’d think that those four words summed up all that’s important in American foreign policy. But, as important to American interests the war on terror is, the fact is that what goes on in Washington DC can be a game-changer throughout the world. And when the game changes, it isn’t always for the good.

Take for instance the situation in South America.

The US just expelled the Venezuelan ambassador, apparently in retaliation for the US ambassador to Venezuela getting the boot as well. Hugo Chavez, of course, is saying that he recalled the Venezuelan ambassador. Who did what first doesn’t really matter though. What matters is that this tit-for-tat only deepens the divide between the US and Chavez – who happens to be quite a popular figure in South American politics. A popularity he obviously wants to bolster; he says he expelled the American ambassador in solidarity with Bolivia.

And its not just South Americans that gravitate towards Chavez. Now the Russians are getting cozy with him too, setting up joint military exercises in the Caribbean. Remember Russia?

After the Cold War, many Russia experts advocated reaching out to Russia with an open hand. Instead, the American government insisted on cultivating an atmosphere of distrust, to the point of actively moving to expand NATO right up to Russia’s doorstep. 

Now the Bear has always been paranoid about being encircled by unfriendlies – which was exactly what America was doing. This doctrine of containment may have worked well in the Cold War, but after the collapse of the USSR, all it did was make the Kremlin feel that it wasn’t being welcomed by the west. 

But now, that containment strategy has been shown to be more bark than bite. When Russian tanks rolled into Georgia – a key US ally – all the Americans could do was issue denouncements. It was like breaking the four-minute mile; all of a sudden, American superiority wasn’t so scary anymore. 

So here’s the situation: Chavez in South America, and Russia – neither one feeling warm and fuzzy towards the US, beginning to cozy up to each other. There’s a lot for them to agree on, but principally, one suspects that they really just want to challenge the perceived American hegemony. And with both being major oil producers, that challenge – perhaps nascent for now – can sure shape up to be a major headache for the US. It’s just not as obvious yet as the war on terror; but when it becomes Cold War 2.0, well this is where it started folks.

So shouldn’t the candidates be talking about that? Maybe they are, but I just haven’t read anything about it. 

And then there’s the perennial problem with North Korea. First off, they build nuclear launch sites; then there’s this rumor that Dear Leader isn’t recovering well from his stroke – leading to fears about internal instability. Of course, if Kim were to croak without leaving a successor, there’s also the probability of his successor opening up the Hermit Kingdom and dropping the saber they’ve been rattling for almost two generations. But then again that that’s all North Korea really has – the threat of nuclear conflagration. Without that threat, it loses the billions of dollars of bribe aid money it receives in exchange for not causing trouble. So it’s also perfectly plausible for Kim’s successor to keep on rattling the saber – thereby prolonging the uncertainty in that region – or to go James Bond villain and just launch the damned missiles. 

I’m sure the candidates are talking about that too. I’m just not hearing it over the din of the potshots being taken at Obama for being a community organizer and at Palin for being an empty-headed campaign ornament.

So why is this relevant for the Philippines (a question that’s recently been asked over at FV, btw)?

Well, for one thing, everyone knows that when the US sneezes, damn near the whole world catches a cold, and we develop pneumonia. For another, Filipinos are one of the largest ethnic groups in the US today. But the bottom line is, US foreign policy is determined by its President. And US foreign policy affects the world. We become collateral damage if the US screws up. For instance, the invasion of Iraq contributed heavily to the sky-rocketing of the cost of oil and so does the US’ antagonizing of Chavez, and we all know what expensive oil does to economies – including our own.

US foreign policy also dictates US actions on foreign soil. I know its all apocrypha, but its been said often enough that the US meddles in local affairs. Chavez says a coup was being planned in Venezuela that had American blessings, for example. Closer to home, it’s been suggested that the MOA-AD was part of a greater American plan to ‘spread democracy.’ Look what that brought us.

All in all, it’s not just Americans who have a stake in the outcome of the presidential elections in November. And as people who stand to be affected by that vote, we need to have an opinion too; even if our opinion stands a snowball’s chance in hell of shaping the American decision.

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2 Responses

  1. ptt says:

    Obama has already responded to questions on how America should deal with terrorism, hostile nations and national security. His response to everything is always about getting with the world community to establish a forum.

    To many voters, this just translates to Obama being weak and too much of a pussy to be President.

  2. J says:

    Hi Rom. Haven’t been on line for quite some time now. Missed a lot of your (and FV bloggers’) posts.

    Nice analysis on the emergence of a new cold war.

    I think Russia is being encircled by PNAC architects because those neo-cons are afraid of the potential of Russia’s economy, which can be the key to Russia’s rise as a superpower (and a otential challenge to America). For the Americans, they prefer to engage a rising superpower before it becomes a superpower (which is why they see a need, too, to contain the Chinese in our part of the world.) And for the US, the strategy is to surround Russia with NATO countries so that Russia would be cowed into joining NATO and becomming a middle-power-American-stooge.

    This doesn’t work with a strong Russian leade though. Putin is strong and he understands America’s designs, which is why Putin is hell bent on challenging American hegemony and continuing to strenghten Russia’s power while the US is bogged down on Iraq and Afghanistan. The way I see things, I can say that an insecure Russia is using ethnic Russians living in former CIS/USSR countries to at the very least get those nations back into Russia’s sphere of influence.

    There IS a growing Cold War between Russia and the United States.

    The question is, where would China side? China’s support determines who win in this looming new cold war. And the Chinese, I think, would want to remain neutral as much as possible. This is because the Chinese needs America’s market, and Russia’s potential energy resources.

    Hugo Chavez and Mamoud Amadinejad figure in this conflict to because of their countries’ oil and other economic leverage. Which means Russia must play a balancing act on the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    I think our Foreign Police makers here should chew on this new development. And I also agree that our bloggers should also talk about these because understanding of geopolitics is useful for nation-building.

    Cheers.

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