Cold War II or Cold War 2.0 are not the titles of a fictional film (yet) but terms used by unimaginative analysts who insist that history is repeating itself, as a parallel to the Cold War between 1945 and 1991, which is interpreted as a political, ideological, informational, social and military conflict in the 21st century that would end the period between 1991 and the present day.
The Cold War was a political, economic, social, ideological, military and informational confrontation that began at the end of the Second World War between the Western (capitalist) and Eastern (socialist) blocs, led by the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the former USSR) respectively.
Today they speak of a return to post-1945 geopolitics, but compared to that cold and visionary conflict, today’s wars are more difficult to contain and have implications for all of humanity. It is a coincidence that Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian leader who lost the Soviet Union and the first cold war, died just as the “campaign” for a second cold war began.
According to some, it is taking place in both international politics and economics with a fierce struggle over the dollar, with the aim of preventing China from achieving global dominance. As a result, the United States is waging this new cold war in order to gain strength and to secure as many allies as possible around itself.
Others, such as Umberto Mazzei, point out that in the second cold war the only intelligent policy for Europe’s economy is to integrate with Russia and abandon its vassalage to the United States, a matter of facing up to a geographical reality. It is inevitable that Europe’s largest economies will become independent from the dictates of Brussels, where the European Commission only repeats Washington’s dictates.
But they insist on going back to the past, perhaps trying to make up for the present and especially the future. The context of the Covid-19 pandemic created the right conditions for an institutional and regulatory framework capable of changing the mentalities, customs and values of our societies.
A new framework that fostered new desires, habits and values, but, above all, imposed the production mode of the digital economy, of platforms, digital infrastructures that allow two or more groups to interact. A new business model that has evolved into a new and powerful type of company, focused on the extraction and use of a particular type of raw material: data. And that transcends the blocks drawn.
A bit of history
The period between the end of World War II in 1945 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that divided the world into the capitalist Western bloc, led by the United States, and the communist Eastern bloc, led by the Soviet Union, was called the Cold War. It had its moment of tension during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Cuba, 1962), which led to the installation of the “red telephone” between Washington and Moscow.
There was permanent tension between the two superpowers, escalated by the arms race and the development of nuclear weapons. Fearful of destroying each other, they never went to direct war, but their clashes provoked local conflicts.
John Kennedy’s arrival in the White House inaugurated the most dynamic period of US diplomacy, a period of failures, the most humiliating of which was undoubtedly the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón) landing in Cuba, but also successes, such as the outcome of the Cuban missile crisis.
Taken as a whole, this period leads to the apparent world supremacy of 1963, followed by the spectacular fall and tearing apart of American society over the Vietnam War.
Going back a little further, it is more than three quarters of a century since British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with his speech in Missouri, and US Ambassador to Moscow George Kennan, with the “long telegram” from Moscow, officially launched the first Cold War in 1946.
Its causes were the fall of the Iron Curtain – or Iron Curtain – the political, ideological and also physical border between Western and Eastern Europe after World War II, which had spilled out from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.
Behind the collapse lay so much capital and ideological and Soviet expansionism, to which the Americans had reacted with a strategy of economic containment (the Marshall Plan as a vector of the capitalist production model), military containment (NATO) and cultural containment (the very notion of the West, in which the differentiating features of two civilisations – democracy and tyranny – are synthesised).
Today, the major conflict is between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and Russia, which is now presented in the mainstream media as a resumption of the Cold War. For some younger people, it is a “remake” of the conflict (of the 1960s) between “the free and democratic Western world”, represented by NATO, and “the (now phantom) communist world”. For this it is necessary to assume that Vladimir Putin’s government is a continuation of the previous Soviet communist regime.
This interpretation of the Russian regime as communist is reinforced by the existing alliance between Russia and China, a country ruled by the largest Communist Party in the world today. What the United States, the European Union and NATO are trying to do is to see this closeness as an alliance of economic systems supposedly opposed to the dominant economic model of the liberal world. All in the name of the sacrosanct democracy of the “free world”, which conceals so many millions of victims.
The role of the media in imposing collective visions has been immense, in what communicologists call fourth and fifth generation warfare. For example, Elon Musk, the new owner of the Twitter system, self-promoting himself as a great defender of press freedom and democracy, has defined communism as “the greatest curse on humanity that must be exterminated”.
It is this conflict between two supposedly opposing ideological systems, the good guys against the bad guys as in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, that is having a devastating impact on the majority of the world’s population, as the economic measures being taken by both sides are creating a huge economic and social crisis affecting the health, quality of life and welfare of the working classes not in Ukraine and Europe, but in every country in the world.
Finally, Washington and Berlin yesterday made official the dispatch of their most powerful tanks, Abrams and Leopard II, to Ukraine, taking the conflict to a new level of confrontation, while Russia downplayed their importance on the ground. This new arms stampede, with the transfer of armor, takes on a more ominous aspect both because it moves from assisting Ukraine’s defence to providing it with undeniably offensive capabilities.
What is clear is that NATO and its allies have no interest in peace, but rather in fueling the war and escalating its lethality, with no regard for human lives or the global repercussions of the conflict in Eastern Europe.
In addition to geopolitical interests and the profit motive of arms manufacturers, the role of the hegemonic media must be observed. If German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is prone to adopt balanced positions, gave in to sending heavy tanks to the front lines, it was largely due to media pressure, which is used by oligarchies around the world to subjugate governments.
Already Julian Assange claimed in 2011 that almost all wars in the previous half century were started because of media lies, such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003, justified by TV, radio and print media with the hoax of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Today he is being persecuted for revealing the truth.
This media manipulation has a mercantilist purpose, but it is also due to pure yellow journalism, as well as to the ideological designs of governments and private corporations, and today, in the case of Ukraine, it reaches deplorable extremes by stirring up violence, exaggerating, forcing systematically biased readings of reality, always omitting historical and contextual information that could explain the reasons and background that led to the current situation.
Ukraine’s other conflicts
The Ukrainians – on the other hand – add other conflicts that not only affect the development of the war, but also go unnoticed due to the lack of visibility given to them by the hegemonic media, such as the latent cultural and national identity conflict between the Ukrainian-speaking sector of the population, which has controlled the state for the last eight years when the loss of power of the Russian-speaking sector began, accentuated by the war that facilitated this transfer.
Another conflict, silenced in the Western media, is the social class conflict that appears in the implementation of the Ukrainian government’s public policies (neoliberal, manipulated by the business world) such as the deregulation of the labour market, the reduction of labour rights and the privatisation of social security, which led to the minimisation of social rights.
The unpopular measures were not caused by the war, but were proposed by the government before the beginning of the conflagration, but approved during the war and justified by Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government as necessary to attract foreign investors in order to achieve economic recovery.
One reason for these media silences is that such a war is shaped and determined by a larger, wider conflict that determines what is more or less visible about what is happening in Ukraine and the world, Vincenc Navarro points out.
Another measure, as neoliberal as it is unpopular, was to allow foreign ownership of Ukrainian land, supposedly to attract non-Ukrainian agricultural companies to invest and ultimately control agricultural sectors in the country. The proposal came from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as a condition for allowing the renegotiation of the country’s foreign debt repayment.
The war facilitated the approval of such unpopular measures that benefit business sectors allied to Zelenskyy’s government at the expense of the popular sectors, cannon fodder in the war.
The economic crisis caused by both the war on Ukraine and the neo-Cold War II are contributing to the delegitimisation of the political economic system, which was already occurring before the establishment of the Hot War in Ukraine and the Cold War globally. Both conflicts strengthened the power of the ruling groups on both sides. President Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan has been forgotten and his leadership is even accepted by NATO governments.
Meanwhile, the ruling centre-left and social-democracies in Europe continue to lose credibility after implementing neoliberal measures that hurt the working classes. Today they are satellites of the policies led by the Biden administration, in the context of growing anger at the liberal establishment being channelled by the neo-fascist and neo-Nazi far right on both sides of the North Atlantic.
In the US, Trumpism has continued to expand and gain more and more power, with the support of powerful Western media groups such as Twitter and the Fox network. Meanwhile, Republican intellectuals, leaders and journalists have expressed their sympathies for Putin and vice versa, and Russian public television has expressed its support for Trumpism.
And at the international level, one of the Republican and far-right ideologues, Steve Bannon, explicitly supported Jair Bolsonaro’s attempted military coup, while Putin has shown his sympathies for Trumpism, this support being explicit on Russian public television…
All the evidence shows that the quality of life and well-being of populations and the very survival of humanity demand radical changes, establishing alternative economic models that avoid the enormous concentration of ownership of resources by individuals and groups that characterise the liberal economic model that is shaping economic life and determining the world’s political institutions.