Another Cold War in offing?
In early September, the world media flocked to St. Petersburg, Russia to cover the G20 summit. It was very much expected that the ongoing Syrian crisis would overshadow the economic issues during the summit. A careful analysis of the TV and print coverage of the event reminded one of the Cold War era when two powers struggled to claim victory over the other in almost all spheres of life. It seems after a lull of a few decades, Russia is again seeking to assert its role in the world and that too on a par with the United States. An interesting war of words is a testimony to our claim.
In his Op-ed in New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote on Sept. 11, 2013, “We must not forget that God created us equal.” This came as a response to US President Barak Obama remarks, “What makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” On Sept. 12, Obama replied in the same newspaper, “Mr. Putin, we put a man on the moon and you barely got a monkey home safely. We invented the computer and you invented the way to steal it.” He went on to say, “It’s one thing to put down exceptionalism, but before you do that, you at least have to produce one Broadway show, or make one commercial airliner, or invent one type of salad.”
Now let us not digress. Back to the summit, the entire world was watching with bated breath as to how these two traditional rivals would tackle the Syrian issue. It was a grand opportunity for Russia to demonstrate to the world that it has an equal say in global affairs — at least no less than the US. Although there is incriminating evidence that Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons, Russia successfully managed in averting a possible US strike against Syria. Moscow employed both its history and vast lands to ascertain its potential role on the world stage. Moscow left no stone unturned to protect its ally against a military action and insisted on the adoption of UN procedural protocols with respect to destroying Assad’s chemical weapons’ arsenal. We can say that Russia used all its cards to re-gain its role as an important player in global politics.
Russians typically take pride in their history, especially when referring to the US. The G20 summit was held in Peterhof Palace, which was constructed on the orders of Peter the Great. Sometimes described as Russian Versailles, it is recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Putin stood in front of the entrance and in the middle of the court so as not to obstruct view of the palace. A big sign behind him that read, Russia-The G20 summit, was put for the world media to snap photos while he was receiving the leaders of the world’s most powerful economies.
In that show of Great Russian history, Putin was declaring that Russia is being ushered in a new era, with a formidable say in world’s affairs. The exhibited sense of greatness was practically shown in Putin’s spokesman’s remarks, “the UK is a small island and no one pay any attention to them."
The Russian political tone with both the US and the UK is unprecedented in its foreign policy. The Russians political calculation must have been based on the fact that after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and facing economic difficulties, the United Stated might back off from its “redline” doctrine, and ultimately lose its credibility and as a result its supremacy.
• Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan is a Saudi academician based in Riyadh. This article is exclusive to Arab News.
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