Cold War Part Two: the West’s missed opportunity
By Claude Salhani
The geopolitical situation in the greater Middle East is without question at its most precarious point in the modern history of the region, with such savagery not seen since the days of the Mongol invasions of Central Asia.
Also without precedence is the alarming level of refugees fleeing the conflicted zones. International relief agencies such as the International Organization for Migration, and the UN High Commission for Refugees, all agree that this is a tragedy of Biblical proportion.
Add to this saddening toll the level of education in most of the Arab world already trailing far behind most other regions of the world. With the wars going on in Syria and Iraq education in those countries will trail even further. Combined, the entire Arab world (442 million people) produces fewer books per year than does Spain (pop. Est. 44.5 million).
Blaming one side or the other does little to resolve anything other than the self-gratification of politicians.
In his speech before the UN General Assembly earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin placed the blame squarely on the United States for the manner in which it behaved after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
But lets give the devil his due, indeed, Washington’s policy towards post-Cold War Moscow was misconstrued and outdated and treated the Russians as big losers when in fact they should have been encouraging the Russians and the 14 other former Soviet republics to all be part of the same team and same effort. Instead, the West chose to continue a Cold War-ish approach to politics vis-à-vis Russia.
Instead NATO irritated the Russians by recruiting among the former Soviet states, right next door to Russia. In so doing, the West lost a unique opportunity to put an end to the animosity and mistrust that prevailed between the Eastern bloc and the West.
Amid the hesitation and lack of coherency and absence of an intelligent policy regarding the current situation in Syria, Putin took the bull by the horns and acted. Moscow dispatched marines, war planes and attack helicopters and began beefing up a Russian military base near the Syrian port of Tartous, a naval facility of strategic importance to the Russian Mediterranean fleet.
If the West believed it could afford to delay formulating a response to the threat posed by the Islamic State because of a sense of false security generated by the geographic distance between them and the conflicted zones, Russia did not share this sentiment. Having already fought two wars in the Caucasus, Moscow clearly wants to avoid another confrontation with the Muslim populated autonomous republics in the southern part of the Federation.
Dr. Arturo Munoz, a 29-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency, who spent many years in the field, particularly in Afghanistan and other blooming garden spots of this troubled part of the world, told This Week in Focus that in his three decades with the CIA and now as an analyst with the Rand Corporation, he has never seen such mayhem emerge from the region. And even more frightening is the lack of an orchestrated response to this threat. The little the allies have come through in the Syrian conflict has been too little too late.