Playing the Cold War Game

Left to right: Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro; Mohsen Rezai, Iran’s Vice President of Economic Affairs; Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua; and Miguel Diaz-Canel of Cuba.  Managua January 10, 2022.  Photo: Office of the Presidency

The power struggle between the great global powers isn’t about the supremacy of socialism or capitalism anymore, nor about Marxism versus neoliberalism.

By Rafael Rojas (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Within Latin American public opinion, there are at least two recognized ways of speaking about a “new Cold War”, in allusion to the current conflicts between the US and NATO on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. There are those who start with the thesis that the Cold War never ended for Latin America but continues today in the tensions dividing Washington and Europe from Moscow, Beijing, Caracas, Havana and Managua.

But there are also those who think that we’ve been living in a new phase of global history since the 90s. This group views many of the conflicts as playing out in a new world context, but with values and practices inherited from the past.

The second line of reasoning seems to me more accurate, but any effort to unlock the logic of the first argument is also worthwhile.

It’s clear that the power struggle between the great global powers is no longer about the supremacy of socialism vs capitalism, or Marxism vs. neoliberalism. Russia and China are no longer socialist systems, although the latter country is ruled over by a Communist Party. Neither are Venezuela or Nicaragua socialist countries. Only large parts of the Cuban system continue to follow a state-centered socialist model.

It’s natural that those who are fervent members of the minority socialist and communist parties that remain in Latin America and the Caribbean see the world as a conflict between socialism and capitalism. It’s not as natural for followers of non-Marxist leftist associations, which are the most common in the region, to conceive of contemporary international relations that way.

In translating the international order into the dichotomies of the Cold War, some attribute to the rival powers of the West an ideological orientation they don’t possess. Not only that, those regional actors increasingly subordinate ideology to geopolitics, in a variation that runs counter, but isn’t that different, from those from within the Western powers who promote policies hostile to leftist governments in the name of the old anti-communism.

A few days ago, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, didn’t discount the possibility of constructing military infrastructure in Venezuela and Cuba, in order to confront the dispute with NATO over Ukraine’s possible membership. No Cuban or Venezuelan high-level politician reacted against the proposal. Neither of the two governments expressed any discomfort over the Russian Deputy Minister’s declarations.

Why? The most plausible hypotheses are that neither government felt at all uncomfortable because it’s in their favor to serve as Russia’s geopolitical chess pieces. Either that, or they prefer to silence their criticism – even if they consider Ryabkov’s statements inappropriate – to preserve Moscow’s support. What’s certain is that in the official Cuban, Venezuelan or Nicaraguan press, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are never criticized. They’re as untouchable as those countries’ own rulers.

  • Article originally published in Mexico’s “La Razon”.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

One thought on “Playing the Cold War Game

  • “There are those who start with the thesis that the Cold War never ended for Latin America but continues today in the tensions dividing Washington and Europe from Moscow, Beijing, Caracas, Havana and Managua.”

    I agree with that sentiment. In fact, the Cold War never ended particularly for the current Russian leader: Vladimir Putin.

    What is Putin up to with his powerful provocation on the Ukraine border? Putin has lived the majority of his life steeped in the Cold War atmosphere particularly when he was a young KGB officer in the once powerful Soviet Union. At the time, specifically in the 1960s, Russia was one of the two world super powers, mostly on a military level, with the United States providing the counterbalance to that power. It was Nikita Krushchev the then Soviet leader squaring off in Cuba with President John F. Kennedy, the U.S. President.

    We know who blinked first in that square off which most historians agree prevented World War 3.

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, things changed drastically for the Soviet Union. It’s military power shrank dramatically; its economic status likewise and its geopolitical territory also diminished significantly. Its Cuban toe hold to the West all but gone. All the while, the United States and the “Western” powers (the advent of NATO) became stronger, economically, internationally, and militarily. This has irked Putin to no avail since.

    That brings us to today. What exactly does Putin want? Everyone’s guess is valid. Knowing Putin’s history and his progress pattern of belligerent takeover of land and territory once part of Russia – Crimea in 2014, and the Donbas region of Ukraine) one can come to a reasonable conclusion Putin wants to slowly bring Russia back to its former Soviet self when it was a military and political rival to the United States and the “Western” alliance, ie. NATO.

    According to a Canadian magazine article in MacLean’s: “The hawks are screeching over Ukraine. Will cooler heads prevail?” The author writes: “He (Putin) loved the Cold War precisely because Cold War competition was not rooted in the values of democratic governance; it was based on militarism, and militarism is the one thing Putin excels at. He wants nothing more than to see the Cold War rekindled.” (Khan, Adnan, January 22, 2022).

    Whether this whole military affair in Ukraine is posturing or not, Putin and his Soviet leaders did say Cuba and Venezuela were being apprised of the Russian situation and Putin postulated recently even threatening a potential military deployment to Cuba!

    According to the Miami Herald newspaper: “Cuba and Venezuela were dragged into the drama surrounding the conflict earlier this month after Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told a Russian television station that he could “neither confirm nor exclude” potential military deployments to the two Latin American nations.” (Torres, Gamez, Strategic partnership’ with Cuban leader amid fears of military threat, January 24, 2022).

    And, to add to the United States headaches, what about China and Taiwan? We all know China wants Taiwan, which China considers a rogue, run away province, back in its fold, back in its influence much to the chagrin of the Taiwanese people. As of Monday, January 24, 2022, China is flying dozen of warplanes around Taiwan sending a message to the United States.

    In conclusion, there clearly is a deep divide between Washington and Europe and NATO from Moscow, Beijing, Caracas, and Havana and it is not based on the old socialism/communism versus capitalism anymore, nor about Marxism versus neoliberalism. This is about territorial reclamation and sheer military power either real or perceived.

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