FEATURE ARTICLE

Augustine C. OhanweWednesday, August 1, 2007
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IS A NEW COLD WAR IN THE OFFING? IF SO WHICH WAY WILL AFRICA TOE?

n 1989 historical forces conspired and brought about the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the demolition of the Berlin wall. The world thereafter heaved a sigh of relief. There was no more fear of the envisaged thermo nuclear disaster.


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It was thought that with the end of the Cold war the erstwhile ideological enemies would cooperate for a safe and peaceful world. Unfortunately history is struggling to repeat itself. Russia is jittery about the U.S post-Cold War geopolitics and has alerted the world about a new simmering cold war.

Is President Putin's fear real or imagined? He asserts that Russia is being gradually encircled by the West with intent to make his country look like Carthage. He is alarmed that former states that made up the Soviet Union - Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania have joined the US dominated NATO. Putin's fear is further reinforced by NATO's overture towards Ukraine and Georgia to join the bandwagon. Georgia is a bit cautious with its tail tucked between its legs

In July 2007, a sophisticated U.S guided-missile destroyer whose baptismal name is Donald Cook cruised into the Black sea port called Odessa. Its U.S flag was dancing to the music of the north-east wind. Top echelons of Ukraine's military staff with their counterparts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania and Turkey - all were in Ukraine for a joint military exercise with NATO. The exercise was code-named "Sea Breeze 2007."

Russians started sleeping with one eye open when President Bush disclosed that he would station antimissile batteries in Poland and Czech Republic, citing Iran's nuclear intention as the main reason. Both eastern countries are situated in Russia's backyard and Russia has registered her disapproval of the US intention in a strong language

As the war of words between the two leaders continue unabated and the runaway dynamics of world's political temperature become frightening the US Sec of State, Dr Rice had stepped in to allay fears. She has assured the international community that the brewing tension between Putin and Bush over the proposed deployment of defensive weapon in Eastern Europe will not metamorphose into a new cold war. She sees no reason for Russia or the entire world to feel scared.

But her assurance runs at variance with the reality on the ground as top Russian officials have debunked her political analysis of the world situation. When Putin visited Austria in May 2007, he told journalist that the proposed US deployment of nuclear umbrella will be targeting his country and stated in a voice laden with concern that a new cold war has just begun. In another separate interview with journalists he made it crystal clear that Russia will command its nuclear warhead to turn towards the geographical position Western Europe should the US goes ahead to execute its intention in Poland and Czech Rep.

Russia's concern about the US design near its backyard was first challenged by Russia's Defense Minister, Sergei Ivanov in November 2003. He warned that Russia would re-examine the defense nature of its strategy, taking on board and readjusting to the Bush Administration's posture in the global geopolitical chess board. He went further to warn that Russia would unleash a preemptive strike against unspecified targets. In July 2007, he threatened again to deploy cruise missiles in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, an enclave situated between Poland and Lithuania -If Washington stations its missile defensive shields on the geographical soil of Poland and Czech Republic.

The former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev have, in strong worded expression challenged the US raison d' etre for the proposed deployment and warned of the global insecurity such a move will generate. He had accused Bush of harbouring the intention to build a global empire in the aftermath of the cold war and in so doing had sowed disorder across the world.

To checkmate what it perceives as the US post-cold war empire building Russia is cultivating strong friendship with many of Washington enemies -Syria and Iran. Moscow wants Iran to join Shangai Cooperation Organisation, an alliance block composed of Asian states with Russia and China in command and control. In the month of July this year the alliance conducted a military exercise.

Russia has also cultivated strong tie with Venezuala, and Burma. Putin signed a $3billion arms deal with Hugo Chaves of Venezuala and had deposited a nuclear reactor on Burma's door step.

In his further effort to wedge the US influence in the Middle East, Putin has visited and fraternized with Washington's allies in the region - Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Africa states served as satellite states and fought proxy wars for the two superpowers during the cold war. It was dumped after the end of the cold war having served its purpose and outlived its usefulness. The prevailing geopolitical configuration wears a sombre garment and a disturbing and rueful echoes of the cold war. With the simmering global tension Africa is likely to be viewed as an attractive dame to be courted again. Is Africa ready for another round of strategic partnership?

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