Is the Cold War Over?

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The Cuban Crisis has clearly shown to the international public, especially the American and Soviet statesmen, how close the world is to a nuclear war and how humanity is under the threat of a nuclear weapon. Although the crisis has shown that especially for Turkey, the United States of America (USA) is a difficult ally to be trusted in case of a real threat, it has made the control and disarmament issues, especially nuclear weapons, a priority on the agenda of the international public opinion. The process, which started with the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Convention signed in 1963, continued with the agreements that led to a significant reduction in the number of nuclear weapons. Although the USA and the Soviet Union did not give up on these weapons, they made both sides understand that a great arms race would not come to a conclusion.

It is widely accepted that the Cold War period, of which the British writer George Orwell was named, ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the process we are in is defined as the Post-Cold War Period. However, the recent events, the crises between the USA/North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia, the cancellation of the contracts signed to prevent the arms race during the Cold War, and especially the armament efforts on both defense and offensive weapon systems, raises doubts that the Cold War period is over.

While the Russian Federation, which was founded from the ashes of the disintegrated Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), entered the process of rebuilding in the 1990s, the USA, which declared its hegemony, tried to continue the Cold War era containment policy through both Central Asia and Europe; on the other hand, it continued its efforts to integrate Russia into the West and take it into its sphere of influence.

While on one hand, he was carrying out moderate policies with the West in his early years; on the other hand, the potential of Vladimir Putin, who both consolidated his power within the country and focused on the economic development of his country, was underestimated by the USA. Taking the atmosphere created after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 20012, the Washington administration signed a decision that shows that the Cold War did not actually end. George W. Bush, the son of the first President of the post-Cold War era, George Bush, withdrew from the 1972 Missile Defense Convention in 2002 and laid the foundation of the “New Cold War”.

While the globalizing world, in a sense, has been focusing on the new security areas, the economy, which Barry Buzan and Richard Ullman laid the foundations for, and especially the epidemic created by the Covid-19 virus for the last few years; The United States, Russia, and China silently and profoundly have accelerated the Cold War-like arms race.

US President Barack Obama, who dreamed of a world free of nuclear weapons in 2009, accelerated the efforts to create a missile shield for the US and NATO lands with both the National Missile Defense System and the European Phased Adaptive Approach systems that he allocated to NATO. On the other hand, he accelerated hypersonic cruise missile projects such as the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS), which can be called Conventional Sudden Global Strike. Aside from the world free of nuclear weapons, he focused on both increasing the number of nuclear weapons and the modernization of nuclear weapons.

In the mid-2000s, the USA, which waged war against the hegemony and unipolarity of the USA with China, ensured the departure of American soldiers from Central Asia, and that the USA both turned the Black Sea into a “NATO Lake” through Ukraine and Georgia and based on its own borders. Putin’s Russia, which did not allow, also accelerated the arms race. On the one hand, while the missile defense system works continued; on the other hand, like the USA, it increased its work on offensive weapons. As a matter of fact, the SARMAT Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which Putin described as “invincible” and claimed to have enough influence to destroy France, and the Avangard hypersonic cruise missiles and Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, which were said to be able to reach speeds 27 times higher than the speed of sound associated with this weapon, having been used by Russia’s new weapons came to the fore.

The focus of both sides on both the defense system and the weapon systems which cannot be caught by these defense systems reminds the arms race of the Cold War era. In the light of developing technologies, nuclear weapon attacks are now designed to hit targets much faster, more effectively and without being caught by defense systems. Brennan’s concept of Mutual Destruction is becoming more real with day-by-day. Concepts such as First Strike and Second Strike are being reconsidered within the framework of new weapons; plus, game theories of the Cold War era are being rewritten. The efforts of both sides to modernize their conventional troops with nuclear weapons modernization and conventional armament studies continue in parallel with these studies. Although it is not on the agenda of the international public opinion, the arms race is escalating in a much more dangerous way than the Cold War period.

On the other hand, repealing the International/Bilateral Conventions, which symbolize the Softening Period, one by one, constitutes another dimension of the danger. The process that has been going on since the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 EBM Convention in 2002 has recently accelerated. Russia withdrew from the Conventional Forces Europe Treaty in 2007, which had banned the deployment of heavy weapons in Europe and western Russia. The United States, on the other hand, withdrew from the contract in 2018, claiming that Russia deployed Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, thus violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Weapons Convention, and the obstacles for both sides to place medium-range weapons in the region were removed.

The NEW START Agreement, which Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton adamantly rejected and stipulating to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons, was signed in the early days of Joe Biden’s administration with a last-minute initiative. Cooperation established within the framework of international agreements continues to be replaced by new crisis areas.

Conducting the Cold War era rivalries through third parties within the framework of proxy wars; however, Russian and American soldiers, who do not come face to face, face off against each other more and more every day. Russian and US/NATO warplanes intercept each other in the Black Sea, Baltics, Syria and many more; the crises that the two sides will face are prevented at the last moment. No one can predict the extent to which the smallest accident will go. The expansion of Russia’s sphere of influence also expands the geography it encounters with Western states.

Although it is not spoken much, it should be accepted that the Cold War has not ended and has even returned to a more dangerous level than before. NATO-USSR rivalry has been replaced by NATO/USA-Russia rivalry in a more dangerous way. Now China is also a part of this great rivalry. Although the number of both sides has decreased, there are nuclear weapons in number and size that will destroy the whole world, and missiles carrying nuclear weapons continue to develop day by day. The cornerstone arms control or disarmament contracts of the Cold War are being canceled one by one. The crisis is progressing silently and deeply with each passing day.

Doç. Dr. Şafak OĞUZ
2019 yılında Doçentlik unvanını alan Şafak OĞUZ, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri’ndeki (TSK) 23 yıllık hizmetinden sonra 2021 yılında emekli olmuştur. Görevi esnasında Birleşmiş Milletler (BM) ve Kuzey Atlantik Antlaşması Örgütü (NATO) bünyesinde de çalışan OĞUZ, Kitle İmha Silahları, Terörizm, Uluslararası Güvenlik, Uluslararası Örgütler ve Barış ve Çatışma Çalışmaları konularında çalışmalar yapmaktadır. OĞUZ, halen Kapadokya Üniversitesi İktisadi, İdari ve Sosyal Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde öğretim üyeliği görevini sürdürmektedir. İyi derece İngilizce ve Almanca bilmektedir.