Lebanese American University


Is Russia paving the way for a new Cold War?

Dr. Jennifer Skulte, a specialist in Eastern Europe politics and a professor of political science and international affairs at LAU, has been watching the Russian tactics closely and shares with us her concerns and expectations.

Russia has, progressively over the past decade and somewhat more quickly in recent years, adopted a foreign policy undesirable and worrisome to many nations. The threat of isolation and reprimands have, however, not deterred Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who much to international dismay has supported Syria’s president Bashar el Assad and has annexed part of a European country. MarCom speaks to Dr. Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss, assistant professor of political science and international affairs about the matter.
MarCom: How is Russia’s annexation of Crimea significant in terms of international stability?
Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss: Russia has already made it clear that it not only disagrees with the international distribution of power, but it also doesn’t agree with the rules of the game and is willing to break some of these rules, almost regardless of the consequences. 
While the established rules clearly favor US interests and may be considered unfair, they do allow for stability. Russia is showing that it is willing to push to change the rules. It annexed Crimea, something only last year people said couldn’t happen in a continent that had survived two world wars, and had established laws and procedures. If it happened there, where else might it happen?
Just as Ukraine has a largely ethnically Russian population, so too do Estonia and Latvia. Despite being members of the EU and NATO, they haven’t been successful in incorporating these populations into their larger nations. So, I see potential areas for real destabilization there, which could destabilize the whole of Europe.
MarCom: Was Russia’s disobedience in Syria a stepping-stone toward its actions in Ukraine?
Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss: I think the reluctance of the West to get more directly and not just rhetorically engaged in Syria did strengthen Russia’s resolve a little. Up until Syria, Russia and the US sometimes cooperated militarily and in terms of intelligence. The US tried to compartmentalize the situation in Syria, but after the events in Ukraine, a wedge has been driven across the board, which I fear is going to mean worse things for Syria in terms of any resolution.
Also, with borders so easily changed in Europe, so too might they be in the Middle East. Might Assad, with Russian support, carve out a new state along the Mediterranean coast? Might Turkey annex Kurdistan or Kurdistan declare an independent state? All these, if they happen, are going to be destabilizing.
MarCom: Are we witnessing the resurgence of a Cold War?
Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss: Yes and no. A Cold War suggests the West and Russia are on equal footing. What Russia has demonstrated is that it is not a Soviet Empire built on new ideology and the building of a civilization, but rather that it has regressed to an old-fashioned dictatorship that in the most developed sense hopes to be fascist. We are not however witnessing the mass industrialization that usually comes with fascism. The economy has been very truncated and development is not taking place.At the same time, if things continue the way they are now, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t, we are likely to see Russia being blocked out of international trade deals and finance, with its economy becoming more closed. In that sense of a separation between the West and Russia, yes, Russia may then turn toward China to try and build an alternative bloc, in some sense of a cold war.



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