As the Ukraine crisis entered its second month, the US and its allies have reaffirmed coordination in sanctioning and pressuring Russia, including imposing sweeping economic penalties against Russia and establishing additional multinational battlegroups.
But such moves will hardly make the world safer. The Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation have placed world stability in peril. The Ukraine crisis is exactly a stern warning of that.
The Cold War mentality has hijacked reason in the West. In 1997, George F. Kennan, former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, warned that expanding NATO would be “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era” and the decision might be expected to restore the atmosphere of the Cold War to East-West relations.
NATO is a Cold War remnant and its expansion is typical bloc politics. Between 1999 to 2020, the US-led alliance went through five rounds of enlargement. NATO’s continuing eastward expansion, which approached the border of Russia, and the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet Union countries, made Moscow see its security space severely squeezed.
Russian leaders have voiced their concerns well ahead of the current crisis and asked for security guarantees from the West including the rescinding of NATO’s membership promise and military support to Ukraine.
All parties involved in the war burning in Ukraine are implored to fully consider each other’s legitimate security concerns. Unfortunately, obsessed with Cold-War-style bloc rivalry, neither NATO nor the US displayed the will or actions to prevent this entirely avoidable conflict.
The US itself has no reason to ignore Russia’s security concerns. As Stephen M. Walt, a political scientist from Harvard University, argued, when the US declared the Western Hemisphere to be off-limits to other great powers, “Why was it so hard to understand why Russia might have some serious misgivings about the steady movement of the world’s mightiest alliance toward its borders?”
For decades, it has been no news that the US, sticking to the Cold War mentality, fomented camp confrontations and directed ideological conflicts to consolidate its hegemony. From remotely staging the color revolutions in Europe as well as the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America to dividing the world in the name of democracy last year, Washington has a stained record of breeding broad confrontation and antagonism and destroying world peace and stability.
With the breakout of the Ukraine crisis, another world security upheaval initiated by the US-led military bloc, Europe now faces the urgent need to ease a land conflict while the world is at the risk of suffering unthinkable spillovers.
A long-term settlement to the crisis relies on major countries rejecting the Cold War mentality and refraining from bloc confrontation. It also requires abandoning the logic of maintaining one’s own security at the expense of others’ and the approach of seeking regional security by expanding military blocs. Neither Europe nor the world would expect to be dragged into the quagmire of a new Cold War.