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Revival of the Cold War scenario

Mohammad Amjad Hossain from Virginia, USA | April 02, 2018 00:00:00

With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cold War had come to an end. But President Vladimir Putin's aggressive policy of expanding Russian territories and increasing its influence in its neighbourhood has led to gradual isolation of Russia from the West. First, he interfered in Georgia in 2008. As USA sided with Georgia, Russia recognised the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under the pretext of saving Russians living in those territories. Putin also annexed Crimea Peninsula of Ukraine in March of 2014 without firing a shot but violating international agreements. In spite of strong protest from Western countries, Putin did not return the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine which led to his expulsion from the G-8 bloc.

Relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated during the Bush presidency when US recognised the breakaway province of Kosovo of Serbia on February 18, 2008 while Kremlin was against the recognition.

However, Putin encouraged Ukraine to declare its eastern part autonomous. As Eastern Ukraine is bordered with the Russian Federation, Putin had allegedly assisted the rebels there by supplying them with weapons and dispatching soldiers surreptitiously along the border. As a result, Russia's relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) soured and NATO unilaterally suspended all cooperation with Russia in 2014. On the other hand, some countries around the Russian Federation were included in NATO despite protests from the former. Russia considers the expansion of NATO in former Eastern Europe as a violation of Western commitment. It was incensed when Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Baltic states joined NATO in mid-1990s.

However, President Barack Obama had initiated steps to reset US relations with the Russian Federation following his meeting with the former President of Russian Federation Medvedev in July of 2009 in Kremlin. But the Russian annexation of Ukraine and intervention in the Syrian civil war spoiled the goodwill shown by Obama toward the Russian Federation.

As of now, Putin has not suffered any serious consequences. But the recent incident of the use of Russian-made nerve gas known as Novichok against double agent of Russia Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in London on March 04, 2018 has caused serious repercussions around the world. Skripal, who was arrested in Russia as a double agent in 2004, settled in London following a spy swap in 2010. Kremlin, however, denied the allegation of the attempt on Skirpal and his daughter.

Still, British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats which action was followed by United States expelling 60 diplomats and imposing fresh sanctions on 24 Russian firms and individuals to show solidarity with its UK ally. As of now, 150 Russian diplomats plus several intelligence officers of Russia have been expelled from 24 countries, including the US and many European Union states.

As tit-for-tat tactics, as many as 23 British diplomats were expelled from Russia. Similarly, 60 US diplomats were also expelled and the US consulate in St. Petersburg was closed down in response to US decision of closing down Russian consulate at Seattle.

Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey has refused to follow the other NATO members in expelling Russian diplomats.

While the Trump administration took actions against the Russian Federation, it is amazing to note that President Trump himself reacted cautiously by calling the Skripal attack a "very sad situation" and further noting that "it looks like the Russians were behind it." Trump never criticised Vladimir Putin in spite of allegations of Russia meddling in the US presidential election in 2016. Trump had congratulated Putin when he was re-elected president on March 18, 2018 against the advice of his national security adviser.

In January last, there were widespread demonstrations throughout the Russian Federation against Putin, protesting against his corruption and nepotism and the jailing of opposition leader Alexe Navalny. Protest rallies were held in 100 cities of Russia.

However, expulsion of such a large number of Russian diplomats by 30 countries will lead to Russia's isolation. This does not auger well for global stability and peace.

Mohammad Amjad Hossain is a retired diplomat from Bangladesh and former President of Nova chapter of Toastmaster International club of America.

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