The Emergence of the New Cold War: The Syrian and Ukraine Conflicts

Published date01 December 2016
Date01 December 2016
Subject MatterArticles
1 Senior Lecturer, History Department, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe.
Research Associate, International Centre of Nonviolence, Durban University of
Technology, Durban, South Africa.
Corresponding author:
Mediel Hove, Senior Lecturer, History Department, University of Zimbabwe, Box MP 167,
Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.
The Emergence
of the New Cold War:
The Syrian and
Ukraine Conflicts
Mediel Hove1,2
This article evaluates the emergence of the new Cold War using the Syrian
and Ukraine conflicts, among others. Incompatible interests between the
United States (US) and Russia, short of open conflict, increased after
the collapse of the former Soviet Union. This article argues that the
struggle for dominance between the two superpowers, both in speeches
and deed, to a greater degree resembles what the world once witnessed
before the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in
1991. It asserts that despite the US’ unfettered power, after the fall of the
Soviet Union, it is now being checked by Russia in a Cold War fashion.
Russia, new Cold War, Syria, Ukraine, US, incompatible goals
Americans and Russians, including their respective leaders Barack
Obama and Vladimir Putin, have frequently rejected the existence of the
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
20(2) 135–156
2017 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0973598416680432
136 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 20(2)
outdated Cold War thinking. However, a reflection on many events in
the post-Cold War era demonstrates the emergence of a new Cold War.
Incompatible goals of the US and the West, on the one hand and Russia
on the other, devoid of open conflict, have been on the increase between
the competing parties since the early 2000s. Linked to this, Cohen
(2006) noted that ‘US–Russian relations deteriorated so badly (that)
they should now be understood as a new Cold War—or possibly as a
continuation of the old one.’ In fact, a number of scholars in view of the
growing conflicts in the world, including the Syrian and Ukraine crises
and the Russia–Georgia war of 2008, have covertly or overtly concluded
that the clashes signaled rekindling of the Cold War memories, if not a
new Cold War (Dadak 2010; Hove and Mutanda 2015; Olanrewaju and
Joshua 2015; Sadri and Burns 2010). However, the new Cold War is not
identical to the earlier one that took place between 1945 and 1991.
The conflicts in Syria and Ukraine have profoundly resulted in estranged
relationships between Russia and the West, especially the US (Likhotal
2015: 83). Among other things the struggle for dominance by the two
great powers both in vindictive speech and deed in Syria, among other
conflicts, represent what the world once experienced prior to the
collapse of the USSR.
Besides, it should be acknowledged that the new Cold War is taking
place between the US and Russia, as opposed to the former USSR, and
that Russia and the US are no longer at par in terms of both military
and economic power, with the US dominating Russia in both (Dadak
2010: 89–107). These circumstances invigorated Russia to aspire to
regain her Cold War position as the apparent successor state to the
USSR, thereby effectively checking the US dominance. A comparison
of the conflict that took place between the US and USSR after the
World War II and before 1990/1991, with recent events in Syria, reveals
a Cold War worldview notwithstanding the existence of some differ-
ences. In fact, the US’s unfettered power after the collapse of the USSR
is being decisively checked by Russia. This is evident from the con-
flicting statements and speeches by Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin
at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, where accusations
and counter-accusations, both overt and covert, were exchanged
(Keating 2015). These strategies extend to so many actors in foreign
policy communities, media and societies. In the next section I provide
a brief insight into the Cold War (1945–1991) before focusing on the
new Cold War.

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