The past 25 years since the symbolic collapse of the Berlin Wall and the accompanying disintegration of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself has left many hopes unfulfilled and more fears realized. To the disappointment of many, the once euphoric atmosphere back then, stemming from the easing of East-West relations, has stayed only in that specific era.
The time marker may be 10, 15, 20, and now 25 years, but one thing has remained the same, the prime political situation in Europe remains: that of the continued antagonism between the West and Russia, especially because of the persistent expansion of NATO towards Eastern Europe and on to Russia.
The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, a man thoroughly celebrated in the West because of his openness and reform policies and perhaps the last remaining ‘elder’ of that significant era, may have expired his relevance in Russian politics and international relations, but what has remained constant is his correctly-judged observations about who’s to blame in the revival of East-West tensions in Europe and beyond.
Gorbachev, ‘Gorby’ as he was fondly called in the West back then, has been assured of a military block that will not expand ‘an inch’ to the Soviet sphere of influence. Contrary to mainstream Western literature, the term ‘influence’ was agreed upon by the victors of World War II, the most tangible evidence of which is the agreed division of Germany and capital Berlin, together with the rest of Europe. Today, NATO, the first pan-European military alliance established after the Great War, remains, while its counterpart, the equally formidable Warsaw Pact, has ceased to exist. Gorbachev and his communist allies in Europe knew that to achieve peace in Europe, the arms race must go, and with it a promise that NATO will remain at bay ‘where they are right now’ back in the late 1980s.
Since that fateful day of German reunification, NATO has expanded four times since 1999, adding not only former Warsaw Pact members but also former Soviet republics, and has committed itself to the destruction of Yugoslavia (which deeply hurt a weak Russia in the 1990s), the Western-backed secession of Kosovo, and today the unnecessary blood bath in Ukraine, on the Russian border itself.
It is unfortunate that the only remaining elder statesman of that era (which include Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul),only Gorbachev has survived to tell how mistaken the situation in Europe has become because of the unchecked triumphalism and arrogance of leaders from the West has become, from crook American politicians John McCain to NATO’s top generals and EU plutocrats. The problem stems from how the West treats Russian national interests as irrelevant and similar to a deeply weakened and humiliated Russia in the 1990s.
An economic and military powerhouse today, Russia has stood in the way of continued Western bullying and disregard for ‘the rest’ opposite ‘the West’. From its reluctance to let Syria fall, to Ukraine’s destruction, Moscow has seen it fit to check this inexorable spread of bogus ‘democracy’ by getting in the way of the American habit of ‘regime change’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’. Indeed, Russia has come a long way since the dissolution of the USSR, and the time has come for the West to come to terms with a changing international order, one that has seen a multipolar world replace a once unipolar but abusive world lead by the United States.
Although talks of a new Cold War is in the air (some call it premature because of the lack of ideological differences), the wall that has deeply divided East and West relations is perhaps unparalleled in the past 25 years. There is no comparable division that has existed since the end of the Cold War, from American-backed sanctions against Russia (insulating the US but harming the EU), treating Russia like a third-rate country (Russia’s nuclear weapons alone guarantee its weight in international relations), to increased encroachment of military spheres (the regular presence of American warships in the Black Sea, a Russian naval stronghold, and military aircraft patrols in former Soviet republics), to the relentless demonizing of Putin and Russia (Obama comparing Russia to Ebola), and the recent fear mongering against the Sochi Olympics.
As for Europe itself, it has become nothing but a tool of Washington’s arm to antagonize Moscow. It has become voiceless and surrogate to American wishes, perhaps making Gorbachev’s recent statement true, that “ instead of becoming a leader of change in a global world Europe has turned into an arena of political upheaval, of competition for the spheres of influence, and finally of military conflict. The consequence inevitably is Europe’s weakening at a time when other centers of power and influence are gaining moment. If this continues, Europe will lose a strong voice in world affairs and gradually become irrelevant.”