The origin of the new cold war is generally traced back to December 1979 when Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan. However, Brezezinski, the National Security Adviser of President Carter of USA in his book holds that it was in 1978 that things began to go wrong in the Soviet American relationship.1 In the first half of 1975, there was apparently some reduction in international tensions. SALT-I greatly contributed to the dawn of what was then acclaimed as detente. A few things occurred in the second half of 1975 which signified the victory for the USSR over the US.
In 1975 South Vietnam fell to communists and the next year the pro Soviet forces captured power in Angola while the pro USA and pro China elements suffered a defeat there in the power struggle. This phase reached its climax when the Soviet Union militarily intervened in Afghanistan in December 1979 and the power was captured, by a pro Soviet regime in Kabul. Subsequently when Soviets became more emboldened that America reacted more sharply. Thus Brezezinski blamed the Soviet Union for the new cold war.
On the other hand the Soviet Union held the USA responsible for the initiation of new cold war. It has been maintained that with coming into power in the USA by Democrat President Carter and assumption of office by hawkish Brezezinski as National Security Advisor, the USA attitude towards Soviet Union underwent a change.
Kissinger’s view that the only alternative to detente was war did not find favor with Brezezinski who disapproved overselling of detente by Nixon and Kissinger. He reminded that detente required responsible behavior on the part of the Soviet Union. But its actions in Angola, the Middle East, Ethiopia, the United Nations and finally in Afghanistan certainly indicated that it was playing smart. He advocated a calculated policy of simultaneous competition and cooperation which could promote reciprocal detente. This naturally evoked strong Soviet reaction and the fragile detente was broken. Thus Soviets accused Carter for beginning the new cold war by unnecessarily combining the soviet behavior with the SALT process.
Many observers characterized the deteriorating Soviet American relations as merely a reaffirmation of their belief that the cold war had never ended, even during the period of detente. The conflict persisted even during detente, though on y a new basis and in a new style the differences that invariably divide great powers did not disappear. From this viewpoint, the name of detente tended to conceal the continuing, fundamental rivalry between the super powers. Hence, Goodman observed detente (was) a part of the cold war, not an alternative to it.2
Gelb further developed this thesis as viewed from the American perspective, saying that the Nixon,Kissinger strategy Sought to evolve detente into a new form of containment of the Soviet Union or better still, self containment on the part of the Russians.3
According to Kissinger’s conception, detente represented an attempt to devise new means to the old ends of containment.4 When the United States enjoyed superiority in strategic and military aspects, according to this agreement, containment and cold war politics was possible by coercion and confrontation. But from a balanced position,confrontation is not viable and containment only feasible through reduction and collaborative linkages which Would tie the Soviets in a web of cooperative arrangements, thereby checking expansionism on their part. From the Soviet perspective, this thesis suggests the possibility that the Soviets might have seen, in trade, technological, and diplomatic exchanges a way of reducing the threat of the United States, thereby enabling them to pay more attention on crucial internal problems.
It may also have been considered as a means of minimizing the threat to the Soviet Union that impending hobnobbing between the United States and China could pose.
Arms control talks were central theme of the whole process of detente. With the signing of SALT agreements in 1972 and 1979, each of the superpowers appeared to have gained a principal objective it had sought through the process of detente. By this the Soviet Union attained a coequal status with the United States. In the bargain, the United States gained a commitment of moderation on the Soviet Unions part in its attempt to achieve per eminent power in the world. In sum, the ideological incompatibilities between the United States and the Soviet Union, hovering of war clouds owing to their military preparedness and their conflicting interests and objectives throughout the world keep the struggle between East and West very much alive.
Until the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in late 1979, the relationship between the two powers was perhaps best explained by Brezezinski as consternation. The term seems appropriate as it stresses the enduring contest that remains fundamental to Soviet American relations. A contest entails elements of both conflict and cooperation. Consternation thus describes the superpowers, dual compulsion to oppose one another throughout the globe, but to cooperate out of necessity because of their common need to avoid nuclear war.
The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan challenged the Correctness of the term consternation that symbolized the Soviet American relationship in early 1979. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance warned in early 1980 Obviously, the bilateral relationship has received a severe blow as a result of what happened in Afghanistan.5 Immediately after this President Carter announced a new “doctrine” when he warned in his State of the Union address that an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary.
including military force.6 Evidently, the Soviet Union was the intended target of the message, Afghanistan its reason. Then in May 1980, Carter explained the perceived Soviet threat in dramatic terms, Soviet aggression in Afghanistan unless checked confronts all the world with the most serious strategic challenge since the cold war began.7 By that time the US had already planned retaliatory actions such as boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, momentary suspension of American grain exports to the Soviet Union, and curtailment of trade links with the Soviet Union that had developed during detente. All these developments and resourcing of Soviet American relations were referred to as new cold war or second cold war that lasted from 1979 to 1986-87.
Causes And Evolution Of New Cold War:
Major causes of the evolution of new cold war are as follows:
1. Reverses suffered in Vietnam:
After the reverses it suffered in Vietnam, America under Reagan Administration was trying its best to refurbish its image. The American people, in a mood of despair, appeared to feel that they had become completely enfeebled, paralyzed and impotent. The success stories of the Soviet Union in Angola, Ethiopia and Afghanistan greatly worsened this psychosis of Americans. In this atmosphere of defeatism and despair Ronald Reagan emerged as the triumphant hero of vast majority of Neo conservatives in his Country in the 1980 election. He undertook to pull his country out of the morass of dismay and disappointment and usher in an era of “New Resurgence.”
2. One Sided Detente:
America’s Nee conservatives alleged that the detente was one sided and the Soviet Union had fully exploited it for its own end. The Republican Party took full advantage of this new spurt of conservative mood in the USA and the result was the victory of Reagan as the President in November 1980. The Republicans also increased their strength in the Congress and were able to gain vital majority in the Senate. This had significant impact on the American foreign policy and detente.
3. Acts of Carter Administration:
The main framework of Reagan’s strident and militant foreign policy had already been built by the previous Carter Administration. It was the Carter Administration that had initiated the policy of helping through CIA, the Afghan Mujaheddians fighting against the pro Soviet Karmal regime. It had also offered help to Pakistan including the supply of sophisticated F-16s. The US decision made in early 1975 to convert Diego Garcia into a full fledged naval base had also been implemented by the Carter Administration. Carter also pleaded the cause of human rights throughout the world including the Soviet Union. His support for human rights was disliked by the Soviet Union. All policies of Carter Administration were retained by the Reagan Administration and implemented with more zeal and with more militant rhetoric.
4. Developments in Indian Ocean:
In Ethiopia, an important pro USA country in North Africa for long, a pro Soviet regime captured power. In Saudi Arabia there was a mini revolt. The rebels were allegedly trained by South Yemen and Libya which are close to the Soviet Union. There was military encounter between South Yemen aided by Moscow, and North Yemen helped by Saudi Arabia and USA. The fall of the Shah of Iran in early 1979 was a terrible blow to the US. For long Shah of Iran was the main pillar of US foreign policy in this area. All these events revived the hostility between the two powers.
5. Soviet Union’s Successes, America’s Annoyance:
Soviet Union’s actions and interventions succeeded in the second half of 1973 in Vietnam (1975), Angola (1976), Ethiopia (1977) and Afghanistan (1979). The US President Reagan accused the Soviet Union of a major share of blame for Polish situation as the latter got imposed material law in Poland in 1981. According to the US, the Soviet Union never misses an opportunity to take undue advantage of the situation and always intervenes to create its sphere of influence. These Soviet actions were not liked by the US Under these circumstances America stood agaped and in the words of former President Nixon, the US looked like the pitiful helpless giant cannot endure to be in a pitiful situation for long.
Features Of New Cold War:
An Indian scholar Prof. Baral has well explained the features of the new cold war.8 His views are summed up below.
1. Mainly Out of Atlantic and Pacific:
in the past, main theater of the cold war was the Atlantic and the Pacific areas The battlefield of new cold war was the states of Indian ocean. Both the super powers were not only sending more and more warships to the Ocean, but were also trying to hire more bases and other military facilities in its littoral states. Strategic importance of the region was revealed during the oil blockade and both sides vied with each other in respect of military presence in the region.
2. Reagan’s Rhetoric:
Reagan’s strident rhetoric added a new dimension into the cold war. He vehemently declared that the US would enter into negotiation with the Soviet Union on arms control only from a position of strength. He hoped that the Soviet Union would be frightened by his rhetoric and rush to the negotiation table with folded hands and bent knees. But his hopes were belied as no meaningful agreement with the Soviet Union could be concluded during large part of his tenure. It was only in last year of his tenure that he became soft and signed INF treaty with Gorbachev. He also talked of Star War.
3. Nuclear Race:
New turn in the nuclear race and nuclear proliferation was witnessed during the days of new cold war. Many third world countries and other nations also joined the race e.g., Israel, South Africa, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil and Australia. There are two opinions in respect of the impact of this nuclear proliferation on disarmament and peace.
The Western scholars opined that the nee nuclear nations are not mature in handling nuclear weapons and are, therefore, likely to be irresponsible in their nuclear conduct. But several third world countries including India do not agree with the above view. According to them the new members of the nuclear club are as responsible or irresponsible as its old members, and to limit the membership of the nuclear club only to five big powers is not only discriminatory, but also indicates big power chauvinism and over lordship. On the other hand, they would expect that the nuclear proliferation, enhancing danger for all would compel the ”nuclear haves” to control and gradually eliminate the vertical proliferation
4. Delinking or De-coupling:
Except Britain, other West European countries, which continued to be close to USA, were in favor of delinking the detente in Europe from peripheral conflicts. They no longer blindly ditto the US policies in different regions Asia, Africa and Latin America. Most of the European allies refused to get themselves involved in American Operations in Afghanistan. They reacted against the prospect of inviting troubles for European peace when ever America feels that its interests in some areas are threatened by ”Soviet aggression”. In this way West European nations did not allow the new cold war to invade their region for the sake of American interests and thus delinked detente from his new phenomenon.
Difference Between New And Old Cold War:
In many respects new cold war was different from the old cold war. Major differences are as follows :
- Old cold war was mainly in areas around Atlantic and Pacific but new cold war was outside those areas and occurred largely in India Ocean.
- In the new cold war Allies or Alliances were not actively involved. China, Japan and even West European countries were disinterested in this and the hostilities continued mainly between the two super powers.
- New cold War resulted in rigorous nuclear arms race between the two major super powers. Nuclear proliferation was witnessed outside the nuclear club of big five. During old war stress was on qualitative buildup of conventional weapons.
- New cold war was more threatening than the cold war of 1955 and 1965 because of the size of the nuclear arsenals.
- First cold war was for the world leadership whereas the second cold war was based on the question of parity or its erosion in the relations between two super powers.
Impact of new cold war:
The new cold war has effected the international relations in many ways.
1 . Setback to Detente:
The first and foremost casualty of the new cold war was detente and arms control talks. SALT-II which was signed after crossing so many hurdles received set back when US Senate refused to ratify it in retaliation of Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in 1979. After that arms control talks ceased to progress. Between 1979 and 1985 no summit meeting was held between the top leaders of the two countries.
2. Interference in Developing World:
Unlike the first cold war in which European colonial powers were actively involved and dealt with former colonies, in the new cold war USA was dealing with developing countries ( or former colonies) directly. Generally the United States had been siding with the reactionary regimes in developing world with an objective to maintain status quo. This compelled Marxist leaders in these countries to side with the Soviet Union.
3. Encouragement to Non-alignment:
The new cold war gave a fresh lease of life to the non-aligned movement and more and more countries preferred to join it with a view to have greater maneuverability in their foreign policy between the two super powers. No doubt some of the countries of the third world have given facilities to the two super powers regarding stationing of military personnel to maintain and service the sophisticated weapons and equipment, but these states have also shown greater inclination to maintain their autonomy.
4. Fear of Proxy War:
The new cold war was marked by high technology arms race and increasing intervention and pressure on the developing world. All this increased the possibility of two super powers engaging in proxy wars in the developing world rather than having a direct confrontation.
5. Economic Difficulties:
This cold war also greatly contributed to the economic difficulties of the super powers and adversely affected the international economy. The high defense spending had resulted in high interest rates which in turn had brought in numerous economic hardships. Though both the superpowers were faced with economic problems but it was the Soviet Union who ultimately succumbed to economic ills in the late eighties.
The new cold war could not survive for long as situation again improved after 1985. Summit meetings between the two superpowers were re started. After Geneva accord in 1987 Soviet Union agreed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Same year INF Treaty was signed between the two powers. In 1989 communism collapsed in East Europe and Gorbachev withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Soviet Union came in the grip of several domestic, economic, political and ethnic problems and had little time and strength for external conflicts. By November 1990 the Cold War was formally ended and July 31, 1991 Moscow summit confirms the end of the cold war and devastating conflict between the world’s two superpowers. In the Moscow summit the historic Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed by Bush and Gorbachev to cut their nuclear arsenals by 30 percent.
In December 1991, the Soviet Union and its Communist ideology collapsed. Many of its Republics declared themselves independent and formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). President Yeltsin of Russian Federation successor state of the former Soviet Union declared during his visit to the US in February, 1992 regarding the formal end of the cold war. In June, 1992, Presidents Bush and Yeltsin again met at Washington where the latter announced that reform programme in Russia is irreversible. Both the leaders also argued to further cuts in strategic nuclear arsenals. With these developments even the new cold war has also become a thing of the past.
1. Zbigniew Brezezinski, Power and Principle (New York, 1983).
2. Allen E. Goodman, “The Causes and Consequences of Detente, , 1949-1973″. Papers presented to the National Security Education Seminar, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado (July, 1975).
3. Leslie H. Gelb, What Exactly is Kissinger’s. Legacy. New York Times Magazine, October 31, 1976, p. 13-15 et. passim.
4. Quoted in ibid.
5. Quoted in Charles W. Kegley, Jr. and Eugene R. Wittkopf, World Politics-Trend and Transformation (New York, 1981), p.
6. Quoted in ibid.
7.Quoted in ibid.
8. JK. Baral, International Politics -Dynamics and Dimensions (New Delhi, 1987), pp. 277-281.