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New 'Cold War' between US, Russia looming

By Chen Xiangyang | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-13 07:41
Li Min/China Daily

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that "nice, new and 'smart'" missiles would soon be fired toward Syria, arousing concerns that the United States and Russia's tussle in Syria will further escalate.

And, suspecting Russia to be behind the poisoning in the United Kingdom of a former Russian double agent, about 28 Western countries including the UK and the US expelled Russian envoys, with Moscow retaliating in kind. In addition, the US has imposed sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, 17 senior government officials and 12 companies.

These incidents have added fuel to the fire ignited by the Ukraine crisis and a new "Cold War" can't be ruled out, which will have a huge impact on international relations.

The global financial crisis prompted greater cooperation among countries around the world, raising hopes of an inclusive global economy and world order. But 10 years after the financial crisis broke out, conflicts and unilateralism have increased, because the West is desperately seeking to hold on to its global leadership role and trying to curb the rise of emerging powers. Instability is threatening peaceful development and win-win cooperation, and the world will slide back into a Cold War if geopolitical rivalries, such as that between Moscow and the West, are not checked.

Although Russian and US leaders seemed eager to improve bilateral relations a few years ago, hopes of that happening have faded with the rising anti-Russia sentiment in the US over the alleged interference of Moscow in the 2016 US presidential election. As a result, confrontations over sanctions, diplomacy and the media between Washington and Moscow have increased.

Moreover, the disputes in the Middle East-especially in Syria where the US supports the rebels and Russia backs the government forces-have intensified the hostilities between Washington and Moscow.

More important, the US has identified Russia, and China, as strategic competitors, instead of competitive partners, in its National Defense Strategy and other reports, and it is seeking to strengthen its alliances with other countries, so that it can impose tougher sanctions on Russia and use trade protectionism measures against China. This blatant US hostility toward China and Russia will only bring the latter two countries together to counter the US' moves.

The US-led West has been playing nefarious geopolitical games to inflict maximum damage on Russia and China through sanctions and trade conflicts. But the West cannot win this battle, as Russia's countermeasures have already caused problems for the US-Europe alliance and China has shown it is determined to respond in kind to the US moves to safeguard its legitimate interests.

The escalating conflict between Russia and the US-led West has the potential to cause severe damage to the world, especially to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. And it seems Eastern Europe will continue to be a volatile frontier of the Russia-West conflict thanks to the inter-twined Ukraine issue.

As of now, Russia looks like gaining the upper hand in the Middle East game, including the Syrian crisis and the Iran nuclear issue, because of the irrational statements and actions of US officials, such as their statements threatening to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and Trump's order to relocate the US embassy in Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Trump administration wants to have a finger in all the pies, from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to East Asia. And as part of its "Indo-Pacific" strategy, Washington seems keen on destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region by challenging Beijing's jurisdiction over the South China Sea waters and trying to drive a wedge between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. What the US has failed to realize is that its actions will further strengthen the China-Russia partnership and harden China's resolve to hit back.

The author is director of Crisis Management Research Center, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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