June 12, 2017
For the average European, a host of rather ugly events have been taking place since 2013 that make very little sense. Indeed, few of us realize that we have actually been witnessing the start of Cold War 2.0
Like the original Cold War, it was started by the CIA and associated agencies, as well. This time, however, the enemy is not international communism, but a group of countries that have frustrated the Washington political agenda by stopping the spread of its own brand of liberal democracy.
This group of countries includes China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary or Poland. Most of these countries are democracies, albeit electoral democracies. Their leaders cater to the needs and views of the majority of the population, being less protective than liberal democracies of the rights of minorities. The resistance of such leaders to introducing permissive legislation concerning the LGBT minority, for example, has nothing to do with their individual preferences. Erdogan, Putin or Orban lead rather conservative countries, whose populations are strongly opposed to allowing homosexual marriages or LGBT propaganda.
The very existence of electoral democracies has thus determined American policymakers to use the US’ ill-famed secret agencies to undermine them. Since 2013, a host of street protests and demonstrations aimed at toppling these countries’ leaders have been organized in Moscow, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Budapest or Warsaw. None of them succeeded so far, simply because electoral democracies more adequately reflect the will of the people than liberal ones. Still, some of these actions, like the 2014 Kiev demonstrations, have led to the de facto partition of Ukraine and the start of a frozen conflict between the western and eastern parts of this country.
In the West, intelligence agencies have also resorted to witch hunts and blacklisting of people and specialists who happen to hold pro-Russian, pro-Turkey or anti-LGBT views. As a result of this campaign, which bears all the hallmarks of McCarthyism, people who refuse to tow the official line are this time prevented from even getting close to a decent job matching their professional qualifications.
I am not the only one, but to illustrate this, my own experience is a case in point. In the 1990s I had become known as a historian holding professional views favourable to Russia. In the Western euphoria created by the fall of the Berlin wall, I was able to recommend to Western policymakers the enlargement of the G7 to G8, in order to partially compensate Russia for its loss of superpower status. After the turn of the millennium during the George W. Bush presidency, however, I was not able to get any job in Australia and obtained only menial teaching positions in Romanian high schools.
In 2008 I happened to be in Toulouse at the time the Estonian Ambassador to Paris was giving a public lecture at Sciences Po against Russian “interference” in the affairs of his country. As a participant to the event, I pointed out that the Russians were in fact reacting to provocations by Estonians against the Russian minority living in their country, not the other way around. As the lecture took place around the day the French commemorate the 1918 Armistice, I reminded the Ambassador that major conflagrations such as the First World War have started because of small countries – like his or like Georgia – dragging big powers into military conflict with each other. At the end of the lecture I was encouraged to apply as a student at the institute’s master course in geopolitics and international relations and my candidacy was approved the following year. This happened in a context in which Barack Obama succeeded G.W. Bush and Dmitri Medvedev took over as President of Russia. Both leaders were looking for a way to reset their bilateral relations, this representing the window of opportunity that allowed me to graduate at Toulouse University.
By 2012, Obama had given up hope of resetting the US’ relationship with Russia and, in Moscow, Vladimir Putin became the country’s president again. The chemistry between the two leaders was rather toxic and a decision was made in 2013 to provoke Putin’s downfall using street protests. That same year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also forced to face ugly demonstrations in Taksim Square aimed at toppling him. These Western efforts led nowhere.
By 2014, the CIA operatives acting in the region have, however, succeeded in provoking the downfall of Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of Ukraine. Their hope was that the success of Maidan will eventually be emulated by protesters in Moscow, provoking the demise of Vladimir Putin. In fact, Vladimir Putin started 2014 with an approval rating of some 65 percent. Two years later, his approval rating shot up to 90 percent, making a mockery of the CIA’s plans to depose him.
After my graduation in 2011, I was prevented from holding any job in a Western country, as I was already blacklisted. The collapse of the “reset” with Russia and the start of Cold War 2.0 saw to that. After five long years of struggles together with my family, I sadly realize that one of the historian’s most important tasks – that of speaking truth to power – has become detrimental to me and my entire family.
As matters now stand, it is hard for me to gauge how long this new cold war will last for. The last hope of normalizing relations with Russia represented by the election of Donald Trump as US president, is rapidly fading. Moreover, it looks as if the American, British and a few other secret services have become irate following their recent debacles and seem ready to go after the American president himself, a feat which surpasses the witch hunts that traumatized American officials during the 50s.
This time around, however, NATO troops are stationed at Russia’s western borders, not somewhere in Central Europe, greatly increasing the risk of a military confrontation in the region. If things go unchecked for much longer, a major confrontation will indeed become more – not less – likely than we care to think.Florian Pantazi