Face It … We Are In A “Warm War” With Putin
For a generation after World War II, the United States – and the free world – were at odds with Russia and China. We deemed it a “Cold War” because we were not in a hot direct military confrontation. We were, however, fighting the Siamese twins of Communism in other peoples’ lands – client states as they were called.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons created a standoff – what was appropriately named MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction. Confrontation between the great powers was not doable because it was unthinkable.
Thanks to President Nixon, we entered an era of cooperation and peace with China – bringing the Middle Kingdom from out behind the Bamboo Curtain. Thanks to President Reagan, we ended the old Cold War with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
For another generation, we entered an era of relative peace – opening business and trade relationships with the old Cold War adversaries. But with the arrival of Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China, the old global configuration started to re-emerge.
We are not in that old Cold War, however. It is worse than that. We are now in what can be called a “Warm War.”
Of course, we see similar client-state wars in places like Afghanistan, Ukraine and in the Middle East. Much like the client-state conflicts in the Cold War, the United States and NATO have been losing them – this time by not even fighting.
The weapons of the Warm War are oil and cyber. Russia is using its only major resource as a weapon against the west. Foolishly, many of our NATO allies put themselves at the mercy of Moscow by making their economies dependent on Russian oil and gas.
The United States is also vulnerable since President Biden decided that the United States did not need to be oil independent – even an exporter. America now draws up to seven percent of its oil from Russia. In fact, if the United States is not oil independent, we must rely largely on nations that are adversaries – Russia, Iran and Venezuela. And nations with which we have a strained relationship – such as Saudi Arabia.
Biden had hoped to disengage with Saudi Arabia because of the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But now that America is dependent on Middle East oil, Biden is said to be planning a trip to Saudi Arabia to beg them to put more oil on the market – and to sell directly to the United States.
Then there is cyber. Apart from the false accusations of Trump conspiring with Putin to influence the 2016 election, Putin DID meddle in a major way. While he did not change numbers at the polling places, he did mount social media campaigns to create confusion and distrust – and racial tensions. President Obama was aware of Putin’s meddling before the 2016 election but did nothing to stop it. He did not alert the campaigns, the Congress or the American people.
It is clear to American intelligence agencies that both Putin and Xi have engaged in cyberattacks on the United States. In one major attack, they shut down a major power grid on the east coast. Those are acts of war — just as were the old-fashion government-sponsored acts of sabotage.
In this new Warm War, the United States and the NATO/European allies respond to “acts” with “words.” The timidity of the west is centered on a fear that any proportionate response would be viewed by Moscow and Beijing as a “provocation.” They say as much. Conversely, nothing they do is viewed as a provocation – not by them and, unfortunately, not by us.
With the possible exception of the Reagan years, America and the western democracies have been on a losing streak. At some point, that needs to be turned around – or we lose the lead permanently, and the authoritarians take over the world.
So, there ‘tis.