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Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Is the the Cold War really over?
The stories in the news of nuclear submarines, secretive Russian commanders and rumours of collisions sound like vintage Cold War stuff. The Kursk submarine disaster has highlighted the importance of good communication and co-operation between Russia and the West on military matters, and raised the question of how much progress there has really been.
The phrase Cold War was coined in October 1947 by an advisor to President Truman, Bernard Barruk.
In 1989 it was officially pronounced over by President Gorbachev's spokesman, Gennady Gerasimov, at a summit in the Mediterranean; "Yalta to Malta, the Cold War ended at 12.45 pm today".
But is the Cold War over?
For this week's Europewide Debate, Europe Today's Mark Reid brought together Rupert Cornwell, formerly in Moscow and now Diplomatic Editor of the Independent daily newspaper here in London; and in the Russian capital, Gennady Gerasimov himself.
This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your e-mails are published below.
There indeed are cold wars now; there is one in West Asia, between India and it's neighbours, another in East Asia involving China and North Korea and their neighbours, the older one between the Russians and the West still exists, and indeed if anything the next "big" cold war is brewing between China and the USA. The fact that the Russians are still building such machines of war, and are still putting them to sea in spite of their truly dreadful economic troubles, illustrates the war is still on.
Stephen Kenney, USA
I think US won the cold war, because NATO is going larger and Russia has just several real allies, they are China, Belarus and some other countries. Even Ukraine and Georgia want to enter the NATO. I also want to say that we (Russian people) start to lose our freedom that we had in Yeltsin's epoch. Maybe it is because of that Putin is a former KGB agent and stuff, I don't know.
I wish all people all around the world peace and love.
Peter Bolton, UK in US
How can you expect good communication and co-operation between the Russian military and their NATO counterparts after NATO's eastward expansion and the war over Kosovo? How can you expect openness from the Russian military if they aren't treated like real partners by NATO?
The cold war may be over, but it has left behind a path of destruction as wide as the whole world. Nations on every continent have been destabilised and destroyed because of the ideological competition of two superpowers. The removal of Lumbaba in the 60's and the long string of tragedy that followed is but one example. I fear that we will all be living with the cold wars aftermath for years to come.
During the crisis, Russia declined Western help to reach the submarine. This shows the monumental distrust towards Western countries. Another example is the Kosova situation where Russia blocked an airport. There is still a Cold War, but the bureaucrats won't admit it to the people
Russia no longer has control over anything beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union and it is clear that things will stay that way. So in that sense the Cold War is clearly over.
What do we mean by the term Cold War? Does it mean that we are prepared to annihilate each other at a moment's notice? We now must be on guard against other threats that humanity must face. Perhaps we have become aware that the polarisation that was the result of the Cold War was in itself harmful to society. We have come to the realisation that we cannot solve a country's internal problems focusing all our efforts on external threats. There needs to be balance. I think that if we are to build a safer world, we should start at home, but also keep watch on the horizon.
The Cold War is over. I hope. I really do. My only dream is to have the 20th century fade away with all its dirty tricks and stupid ambitions to dominate and ruin.
George Gottlieb, USA
There will always be a cold war as long as there are ridiculous suspicions of other nations; misconceptions, prejudices, and cultural misunderstandings of other peoples; nationalistic sentiments anywhere on Earth, INCLUDING the "west;" and premature, propaganda-fed assumptions made by ordinary people such as those who responded below.
My colleague at work is a Russian lady who's former job was an engineer at Sukhoi. The cold war IS over, and you could do well to reflect that in the two major wars of the 20th Century, Russia fought on the side of the west!
There are only two options to get it over 1) band-wagon and 2) balancing. The first option will never be acceptable to Russia because it will mean Russia will have to play the role of third rated country i.e., follow the lines of United States and the and West and accept their supremacy. Because of its size and vast resources coupled with a chance of forming strategic alliances with other significant countries of the world, Russia will always try to balance the United States and the West.
What it means that it will always be comfortable with the second option and no matter what the United States and the West do, Russia will never feel secure until the balance of power between the two former foes is equal.
Nadeem Saqib, USA
Perhaps the cold war approach will become an enduring feature of the way that governments will conduct campaigns, especially when dealing with countries with powerful atomic arsenals. When confronting larger foes, a country will only be able to utilise its atomic weapons once. Cold war tactics have provided an effective way of promoting conflict without needing to resort to a nuclear showdown.
While the Cold War as a period of history is over, it has been replaced by a different sort of aggressive one-upmanship among a whole group of "rogue" states, to which Russia and the USA both belong. Unfortunately.
How can Cold War be over when Nato uses every opportunity to become larger and expand towards Russia. It is not over. In fact Nato and the west are continuously working on either converting former Soviet friends into Nato members, or isolating them politically and economically.
Sergei, Russia/ USA
The Cold War is clearly over by default of Russia's inability to compete with the USA in both military and economic realms.
It's over - relax
The Cold War did have its benefits. The USA is now basically a "rogue" nation as there is no other country that can keep it in check. It does what ever it pleases, often at other nations' expense. The nations the US claims are a threat (North Korea, Iraq, etc) are far less dangerous than our own government.
The Cold War isn't completely over and the Kursk disaster is proof of that. It took too much time for Russian authorities to admit they could not cope with it themselves and accept foreign help. All during the time after the accident happened they tried to conceal the truth and misinformed people about the real situation. The result is very sad - they discredited themselves before the Russian people and the whole world.
Ali Saiful, Malaysia
The Cold War is and will never be over - we have just changed the way we measure the temperature.
In Naval circles the Cold War is far from over. As an ex submariner I am well aware of the cat and mouse games that continue to be played in the oceans and seas (particularly the Barents) by nuclear submarines of the UK, USA and Russia. It is not improbable that this tragedy was a direct result of such games.
As someone who has spent much of the past 5 years working in 9 of the 15 former Soviet republics, I've had a chance to see the "other side" - the people behind the rhetoric. The Cold War was not the goal of the Soviet people - nor, I think, was it the goal of their leaders. The Soviet Union was the largest social experiment in history, and it was opposed in many fundamental ways to Western capitalist society. The danger is not whether the Soviet Union will once again constitute a coherent threat to the West, but rather what the disaffected pieces of this former empire will get up to on their own.
The Cold War is over, but for the Russians the old Soviet style of crisis management remains. Putin and his advisers are still living in the world of Cold War diplomacy; no doubt still believing that Russia is a superstate. It isn't. The fabric and infrastructure of Russia is crumbling. Only a true integration of Western values and policies will correct this slide.
One interesting fact that did come out of this whole affair however was that Americans still monitor Russian naval exercises. This still seems to suggest that there is an inherent mistrust of the East in American defence policy.
As long as there is still suspicion as to other nations' motives or real intentions, the Cold War will not be over.
The Cold War ended when the USSR broke up and ceased to be a coherent political and military force. China is not the new USSR, but a pragmatic totalitarian state, if vicious and repressive. It is integrated to some extent into our ecomomic system - if we suffer, so does China. The Cold War was not like that. The USSR tried to be a closed system and failed. China will not make that mistake. The challenge now is to control nuclear arms in the former USSR.
The Cold War is over. In the old days we would never have heard about Kursk, except as a piece of unsubstantiated information in defence circles.
I think that for many countries such as Poland and Hungary, the Cold War is indeed over and they should be given the same opportunities as, say, France or Germany.
As long as the world order is based on "blind" competition for the world's resources, there can never be an end to the Cold War. Many of the so-called advanced countries thrive on arms and control the world both from space and on earth. The Russians will not give up, even if it means sinking more of their submarines accidentally!
The Cold War is over, but rivalry and pride still exist between the Super Powers. We must remember that military officers of high ranking served during the Cold War and will not drop their guard too easily.
Gorbachev would have genuinely liked to have brought the Cold War to an end, but the vested interests in the armaments industries and military establishments on both sides saw no profit in such a result. NATO should have been closed down as a mark that it was all over. Instead, the Czechs, Poles and Hungarians have been allowed to change sides (which was all they wanted in the first place), while the rest of the former Soviet satellites have been left to rot.
Chris Cagle, USA
The "Cold War" is far from over when we consider the reaction of the Russian "establishment" to such events as NATO expansion and, more recently, the Kursk submarine disaster.
This persistent mistrust of the West has been further emphasised through Russia's strategic alliance with China against what it sees as America's global dominance.
I think the best explanation for the current state of world affairs could be summed up in Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilisations and Remaking of World Order". Conflict is no longer based on the ideologies of Communism and Capitalistic democracy, but on the authority of language, religion, and customs that define civilisations.
I do not believe the Cold War is over. Yes, there have been improvements with the 2 Super Powers, but there will always exist a sense of competition and mistrust. The Russians refused any help from the US even though we have the equipment for sub retrievals. They are afraid that we may see their technology and I also think they are embarrassed by the whole disastrous incident. Unfortunately, this game or Cold War will continue indefinitely and there will always be innocent victims involved.
The Cold War may be over, but a post-Cold War world dominated by only one superpower driven by the idea "winner takes all" is neither safe nor just. Whether former Cold War rivals are ready to forge genuine partnerships remains to be seen. The first step towards this cooperation would be to stop arguing who "won" and who "lost" the Cold War!
What about Israel? Are we gonna just ignore the fact that they are rapidly growing a massive nuclear arsenal?
The Cold War is over, but not for conservative Americans and ultra-left Russians (which include many old officers).
The Cold War is far from over. Russia was mentioned in the title but I do not think that Russia is the problem. China is still fully totalitarian and aggressively expansionistic and poses a real danger to world peace. It has illegally annexed Tibet, its oppression of Uigurs is known and it is extremely aggressive towards Taiwan.
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