One of the main narratives to come out of the ongoing crisis and conflict in eastern Ukraine, and to the conflict in Syria, has been the new Cold War between East and West, with Russia slipping back into its role as bogeyman.
It is a narrative which suits Western ideologues in European capitals and in Washington - men and women who view the world through the prism of those John Wayne cowboy movies that Hollywood used to churn out one after the other.
Fanned by a compliant mainstream media, it is a narrative which serves to distract attention away from the role of Western governments in fomenting the crises in both eastern Ukraine and Syria, along with the too-many-to-name crises that have erupted around the world over the past three decades since the passing of the Soviet Union. It also helps to maintain the myth of the West as the ‘good guy’ during the original Cold War, standing up to totalitarianism and aggression while characterizing today’s democratic Russian Federation and its current president, Vladimir Putin, in the same terms.
We should be used to such distortions of history by now. After all, isn’t it a truism that history is written by the victors? That said, history never ends it flows inexorably, with a nasty habit of shattering the illusions of those who make the mistake of believing myths that are presented as truth.
One of the most vocal of the aforesaid Western ideologues has been Senator John McCain, a man who, not satisfied with inciting the violence in Kiev, which culminated in the illegal removal of the last legitimate democratically elected government of Ukraine, has remained consistent in spouting a never-ending stream of anti-Russian and anti-Putin rhetoric to anyone who will listen. During a CNN interview in March, for example, the senator said: “Vladimir Putin still has visions of the Russian Empire, and I think we ought to realize that, and treat it accordingly. He does believe this is a Cold War game, even if the president doesn’t.”
Just as with today’s crises in Ukraine and in the Middle East, the original Cold War was the product of the West’s attempt to expand its writ throughout Europe and to isolate the then Soviet Union in the aftermath of the Second World War. The war had left Europe decimated, exhausting the economies and destroying the infrastructures of every one of the belligerent nations involved except one – the United States. The US, in fact, emerged unscathed and considerably stronger as a result of the war, spawning a war economy that continues to this day as a key driver of US government-funded research and development, technological innovation, and exports.
In contradistinction to the huge impetus the Second World War gave to the US economy, it left the British economy on its knees. The loss of key colonies, such as India in 1948, was a direct result of Britain’s inability to maintain them. This comes as no surprise when we consider that in the early stages of the war it wasn’t even certain that Britain could survive against the might of the Nazi war machine. Indeed, without Russia’s entry into the war in June 1941, which diverted the weight of the Nazi war machine to the East, and US entry into the war in December 1941, with its massive input of resources and desperately needed materiel, there is no reason to believe she would. Nonetheless, even though by 1944 the tide had turned and an Allied victory was certain, it was clear that Britain would never recover her former dominance on the world stage among the imperialist powers, such was the state of her economy.
Another important factor in Britain’s demise was the determination of the United States to restructure the post-war world to ensure its own dominant position. Both the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were in a thrall to corporate America – especially the oil, banking, and armaments industries – which were keen to expand their reach on a global scale. The key elements in the US post-war strategy was military superiority in nuclear and conventional weaponry; economic hegemony through control of the newly created International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which spawned the introduction of the dollar as the main international reserve currency; and control of the world’s natural resources - in particular oil.
Indeed, with the Second World War still raging, a struggle for economic hegemony in the postwar world was already unfolding between the Allies. Its extent is revealed in a message sent to President Roosevelt by Churchill just a few months before D-Day in 1944. “Thank you very much for your assurances about no sheep’s eyes on our oilfields in Iran and Iraq,” Churchill wrote to the President. “Let me reciprocate by giving you the fullest assurance that we have no thought of trying to horn in upon your interests or property in Saudi Arabia.”
Regardless, neither Churchill nor the British ruling class were unable to deny the new reality of US hegemony and so decided that Britain’s interests were best served in maintaining as close a relationship to the United States as possible after the war ended. It was Churchill who coined the term ‘special relationship’ during his famous Iron Curtain speech of March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri. “Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States.”
The much vaunted Marshall Plan came in the wake of the Truman Doctrine, outlined by President Harry Truman in a speech to the US Congress in 1947. It pledged that the United States would resist the advance of communism throughout the world in a policy of containment devised by the State Department official and Kremlinologist, George Kennan. In concrete terms containment set in place a belligerent and confrontational stance against the West’s former ally in the war against fascism, with Truman’s speech marking the official launch of the Cold War.
Officially, the Marshall Plan was implemented to provide economic aid to help in the rebuilding of the infrastructure and economies of European nations destroyed as a result of the war. In truth it was introduced in order to lessen the influence and appeal of communism and communist ideas throughout Western Europe among peoples who’d emerged from the war poverty-stricken and destitute. It was also implemented with the objective of creating markets for growing US exports and to keep Europe dependent on US economic aid.
NATO was formed in 1949 with the stated purpose of countering the threat of Soviet expansionism, ensuring a permanent US military presence in Europe which continues to this day. However, the stated purpose of NATO’s formation was at odds with the truth, described succinctly by Cold War historian, Melvyn Leffler, who wrote: “The Truman administration supported the Atlantic Alliance primarily because it was indispensable to the promotion of European stability through German integration.”
Leffler went on to state that whilst preparing for the key meeting at which NATO was established, US officials “became convinced that the Soviets might really be interested in striking a deal, unifying Germany, and ending the division of Europe.”
As we can see, the Soviet Union was not the cause of the Cold War; it was the West with the belligerent stance it took with the objective of encircling and isolating Moscow after the Second World War.
The consequences for the people of the world as a result of the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 could not offer a more damning indictment of the West’s fixation with dominating the planet. The break-up of Yugoslavia, the last outpost of socialism in Europe, took place in 1999 after a brutal civil war that was incited, fanned and fomented by the West, during which the Serbian people were demonized and their leaders painted as dictators and fascists, paving the way for a NATO assault under the rubric of ‘humanitarian intervention’, a completely arbitrary and unilateral justification for military intervention that has zero basis in international law. The Serbs, it should be noted here, lost more people per capita fighting the Nazis during WWII than any other single ethnic group.
The atrocity of 9/11 in 2001 heralded the unleashing of an imperialist assault on any and all recalcitrant nations and regimes that dare stand in the path of US hegemony. In quick order invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq took place in 2002 and 2003. What followed was a disaster, with both countries over a decade on existing in the grip of sectarian violence, social dislocation, and medieval levels of barbarism.
We’ve also had another NATO assault, this time on Libya in 2011, which again has left the country in a mire of chaos and sectarian violence. This was followed by the conflict in Syria, which has now lasted three years, prolonged largely as a result of the political and material support provided to the opposition by the West. The Syrian opposition, we now know beyond doubt, is dominated by Sunni extremists’ intent on turning the country into a graveyard for anyone and everyone who doesn’t subscribe to their poisonous ideology. The instability and conflict in Ukraine has followed a similar template of Western intrigue, incitement, and political intervention.
Ultimately, regardless of whether it has been a Republican or Democratic administration in power in Washington, the US and its allies have sought global hegemony at any cost in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which at one time kept its hegemonic agenda in check. Now that Russia has emerged as a strong and robust state with a government that is no longer prepared to tolerate repeated violations of international law and the treatment of national sovereignty as a gift of the powerful, we are hearing talk of a new cold war. The reality is that Washington and its allies have been used to running rampant across the globe for the past three decades and don’t like the fact that now they are being opposed and exposed.
In the words of Hugo Chavez, former president of Venezuela and inspiration behind the Bolivarian Revolution: “I hereby accuse the North American empire of being the biggest menace to our planet.”