By Travis Gulbrandson VERMILLION — The recent struggles between Russia and Georgia have led some to question whether the United States, as well as other countries, could be facing another Cold War with the former Soviet Union.
A group of academics addressed the issue at a forum at the University of South Dakota Wednesday afternoon.
Their verdict was that while possible, a new Cold War isn’t likely.
Dr. Don Pryce asked, “Is this a new Cold War? I don’t think so. It’s clear that the United States is not going to take military action and cannot take military action, and is assessing the situation in Georgia, thinking about reconstituting the Georgia military, but has not reached a decision yet.”
LTC Damian Donahoe said the United States’ — as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s — primary function in the Georgia/Russia conflict will be that of provider of humanitarian assistance.
“That’s where you’ll see the greatest amount of military presence,” Donahoe said.
However, Dr. David Burrow pointed out that Vladimir Putin’s view is that NATO is now anti-Russian, “that it exists to confine Russia — no matter what the leaders in the European Union, no matter what members of NATO say, it exists solely to handle Russian power.”
Dr. Joerg Winterberg said the primary concern of the European Union regarding Russia is focused on values.
“We are focused on questions like bringing democracy and human rights to the world,” Winterberg said. “We are not focused on the question of who is the new world power.”
He also added that Russia and most European countries are too entwined for a Cold War to be feasible.
But, Winterberg said, differing viewpoints could lead to another Cold War.
Burrow said this would be welcomed in some quarters in Russia.
“I think there are people that like the old paradigm of the Cold War and that sort of stability, so it’s gotten possible to fall into that,” he said.
Pryce said many Russians are also concerned about the United States’ missile defense system, which is currently being constructed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Although the system is meant for defense against Iran, the worry is still there, he said.
“According to American strategic doctrine of the Bush administration … the United States has not renounced first use of nuclear weapons,” Pryce said. “But if it comes to a first nuclear strike, according to some observers, an American first strike could wipe out enough Russian strategic assets that missile defense would then be effective. That seems to be part of what the Russians are worried about.”
Despite this, Donahoe said, “You’re not going to see an increase in nuclear proliferation. There are several other factors that make it difficult ... expense being one.”
Pryce said there is a problem that arises in talking about the Cold War and the possibility of a nuclear war taking place.
“I notice that as we discuss it as academics, the consensus is that it wouldn’t make sense, meaning the European nations need Russian energy resources, and the Russians need money,” he said. “It’s that simple.
“But if people always made sense, we wouldn’t be doing things like this,” he said. “So the problem, of course, ... is to get people to think in terms of their interests rather than their emotions, to analyze these things in terms of what makes sense.”