The current war in Ukraine took the world by surprise in a span of just a few short months after September 2021, when diplomatic juggles looked more and more fruitless after each passing week. Despite Russia’s showing off more aggressive stance towards NATO and Europe over the last twenty years. Many people and popular opinions dismissed the chance of a land war happening in Europe again.
Why does this conflict happen right now? The roots of this war reach back to the collapse of the Soviet Union. While the Cold War was never a war in a military sense, it was still a war. A war between two ideal systems. Losing a war is always a trauma to any nation. It’s also trauma to its people. This is often connected with losing a sense of esteem in the emotions of politics and prosperity. Looking at the cold war in the sense of an actual military conflict also makes a lot of sense. If we take a look closely at the Russian Federation.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the state of affairs of the new Russia remained the same, with the same person who grew up with only a unanimous understanding, the same mindset, and rules in every establishment. What we all know from history and every study of ‘victory’ is that nation-building is an important responsibility over the shoulders of the victors. Unfortunately, NATO never applied nation-building and its allies again, since the 90s. Taking into account examples of Iraq and Afghanistan together alike. And the vivid lack of developments in the eastern areas of Germany and in its eastern Berlin. The newborn Russian Federation was left alone to haphazardly fend for its growth after the Red Curtain fell. While the international market did open to it for its oil and gas resources and to its poorly managed industrial plundering happening from within. The new political, trade, and administrative systems were overwhelmed by the sudden new direction of capitalism. Even today we see the confusing mix of socialism and capitalism in Russia, along with its lacking of a new and understandable public legislature.
This abandonment of assistance in nation-building is evident in so many ways, with the most obvious that Russia is not really a small country considering its vast undeveloped landmass. In contrast, allied nations provided Germany assistance in nation-building for decades after World War 2. The time after it once was a socialist superstate compared to the Soviet Union. There was no real effort from NATO toward nation-building and welfare support after the Soviet Union collapsed. The reasons for these were the lack of awareness and the constant leg pulling among diplomats and leaders of NATO members and its allies. This goes to show that the so-seeming end of the cold war wasn’t perceived as a victory for all the diplomacy and soft power, but rather a strategic relief. This can lead us to a simple conclusion; the lack of applied nation-building by NATO and the lack of ungrudging investments basically sequestered the same apparatus under a new name and a new flag.
The Soviet Union did trade goods outside its borders during the cold war. Even the Oligarchy isn’t new to Russia; it is just the reborn aesthetics covering the unearned prerogatives of a class that kept taking shape in the union throughout due to cronyism.
By observing the current changing economy of Russia till 2020 and further, we see the slow growth with its symptomatic patterns similar to its former soviet union. The big concerns in this are the state-backed and controlled companies and the internal corruption and tax fraud within them. This creates a lack of healthy market competition, a result intensifying the lack of technical innovation in them. Private startups and technology companies have hardly survived, where not a single Russian-made smartphone or laptop has made it into the market.
“A new name does not create a new nation”. The Soviet Union did not only face huge economic struggles during the cold war. It also faced massive social struggles. This struggle still continues up to this day.
The Muslim population in Russia is having a massive boost in birth rate, the same goes for its community with Asian heritage in the South and the East. The conflict with the Westphalia, during the cold war, allowed the Russian government to unite its entire populace. And the more the gap between different ethnicities closed, the more the cultural and racial unrest did Russia face. On the other hand, the endless empty landmass of Russia tells us about the inability to take advantage of it. Whereas China and most countries have sought and utilized their rural landmass for agricultural and industrial use.
Looking at these points, we can clearly see that the new Russia had two options: Either move closer to the west with no cooperation and assistance in getting used to capitalism synergy or continue working as a former soviet establishment under a new identity. It’s clear that the choice was the latter. This tells you that there is no “new cold war” or “cold war 2.0”. The union did fall but it was never defeated by political means. A decisive victory would have included nation-building, welfare, and systematic administration of interspersed benefits to the population. This was a fault of NATO as a whole, due to its political shamanism, which was celebrated after the collapse.
This goes to tell us as future students and players in the international trades and diplomacy that the most notorious “carrot and stick” approaches that the western political hawks proudly propagated as a solution to interacting with every non-Western country and economy never worked to bore any good partners nor economies. While the future of Russia and the Ukrainian invasion remains uncertain, it still has to be looked upon as a crucial ‘player or partner’ if European nations want to prevent terror and uprisings from spilling out of isolation and into Europe.
Mahmeen Babur is a professional security consultant who works at Hataff Security Systems (HSS) and provides extensive security services to various entities and infrastructures.