From the Editor
August 29, 2014
History took sort of a break for around 25 years between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the annexation of Crimea. That’s more or less as long as the period between the two world wars. Earlier, the world was gripped by the icy chill of the Cold War and frictions between the Eastern bloc and the West dominated global politics. Paradoxically, the 9/11 attacks came to mark a time of cooperation after they sparked a war on terror, an era during which the East and the West worked together.
But that ended when Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to revive his country’s imperialist ambitions.
People easily get used to living in comfort and tend to forget things in the process. Poland and Lithuania, which have bitter, first-hand experience of the consequences of Russia’s imperialist appetites, spent a lot of time trying to make their EU and NATO partners wake up, but the West chose to dream its blissful dream of resetting relations with Russia. In fact, it did not hear the wake up call until almost 300 passengers on the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 were killed.
The most bitter truth is better than the most beautiful fantasy. The illusions are now over and we have been thrown back into the midst of a confrontation. Admittedly, this new confrontation is different in many respects, but the key part remains the same and it is about two contradictory visions. One, represented by Putin’s Russia, has the world order shaped by those who have more power than others. Russia has been disarmingly frank in offering to “cooperate” with world leaders on such terms. The other approach is based on rules negotiated and agreed on by two or more nations and granting equal rights to partners in the negotiations.
These two concepts have clashed and that means trouble and high costs for everybody. The parties in this dispute are using a variety of arguments and most of these are, sadly, about using force, because when one party resorts to force, the other has to follow suit. Dialogue continues, but thankfully we have been increasingly aware of what this is all about. The common belief is that the current state of international relations can prevent the use of force. But this belief could prove to be an illusion.