by Thomas Lonely Wolf
When it comes to East and West — especially Russia and the United States — we may live on the same planet, but the differences between the two can make it seem as if we are from two completely different worlds millions of miles apart. And it is these differences that have been and are driving the conflicts between the two.
For those who remember the Cold War and the mighty Russian Bear standing toe to toe against the Yankee Americans, even that really wasn’t about Communism vs. Capitalism, despite how it was being labelled. No, the differences were deeper than that, and they haven’t changed since the late 80’s when the Soviet Union collapsed and became the Russian Federation it is today.
In truth, there is no Good Guy against Bad Guy, but one country acting and reacting to the threat it perceives.
The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop it.
The United States, born of a bloody revolutionary war and baptised by an even bloodier civil war, is at its heart terrified of another war coming to its shores. It’s national philosophy reflects that fear. War, if it must come, must be “over there,” wherever “there” may be, be it Europe, Asia, or points beyond. This is why the United States spends so many resources on projecting its strength beyond its borders. To prevent “there” from coming “here.”
Russia, for its part, seems to have an “Invade Here” sign tacked to its forehead. Twice in the 20th century alone and once a century before that going all the way back to 1608. This has bred a national paranoia about foreigners getting too close to their borders. And this is reflected in their own national philosophy: Build That Wall. That “wall” being a buffer of countries to stand between them and any potential enemy.
So we have two competing philosophies: One in which wants enemies as far away as possible, and another which wants enemies as far away as possible.
Pity Europe caught in the middle.
So where is this going to take us?
Putin, current Russian President, has made his platform to be a stronger Russia, one that is not pushed around by the West. He also believes in the Russian empire of old, though not the old Soviet Empire. (Putin once said that anyone who doesn’t miss the old Soviet Union has no heart, but anyone who wants it back has no mind.) Projecting Russian strength has garnered himself a great amount of popularity, and so it is unlikely that Russia is planning any change of philosophy any time soon. This also fits in with the genetic fear of invasion that is part of any Russian. It will take a great deal of persuasion to convince Russia that no one wants to invade, and the United States frankly isn’t up to that challenge.
Obama, current but outgoing United States President, has made his platform to be a weaker United States. This President, strangely, seems to hate his country and has worked hard to denigrate it to the world. Everyone remembers the Apology Tour when he first took office. Extending an olive branch to Russia, the gesture was seen as weakness. Nevertheless, Barak Obama is still an American and he adheres to the philosophy of “Over There.” Especially in the later years of his presidency, there has been a movement to be more aggressive in the face of national enemies. The United States has been unusually strong against North Korea, and is reversing its policy toward Russia, becoming more confrontational, especially over Syria. The invasion by Russia into Ukraine is where this policy shift took firm root.
Each country currently works in its own best interest. Russia sees the United States as an expansionist empire. The United States sees Russia as an expansionist empire. Both feel the need to stop the other to protect themselves.
With each country commanding a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying a large part of the planet, is it possible to undo centuries of mistrust?
Thomas Lonely Wolf is the Director of The DEFCON Warning System, an analytical reporting organization which focuses on nuclear threats against the United States and offers an alert code to the public based on current events.