NATO hardens stance on Russia: Cold War@2.0?

Published on : 06:20 AM Jan 24, 2022

The shock resignation of the German Navy chief is an indication of the hardening position of NATO vis-à-vis Russia and maybe prelude to a new Cold War in the offing, writes Sanjib Kr Baruah

New Delhi: Causing an international furore with his remarks at a New Delhi event on Friday organized by the government-backed Manohar Parikkar Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis (MPIDSA), a leading Indian think-tank, the German Navy chief, Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, has had to put in his papers on Saturday in a sudden development that caught everyone unawares.

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The shock resignation is a pointer to the fact that NATO and the West may be hardening their stance against Russia which has massed about a lakh of its soldiers on the border with Ukraine in the last few weeks in what many see as a move with an intention to invade Ukraine.

Ukraine is a breakaway nation from the erstwhile Soviet Republic of the USSR but its ties with Russia plummeted following the Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea in 2014 which was earlier a part of Ukraine. Advertisement

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Germany is attempting to modify former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of not being very hard on Russia. Within Germany, the center-left government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, vitally influenced by the Liberals and the Greens parties, is hugely concerned with human rights issues pertaining to Russia.

While NATO and the EU remain strongly divided over how to react to a possible invasion by Russia, the German Navy chief’s resignation indicates the dominance of the camp that seeks stronger action against Russia.

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On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden had admitted to the lack of unity in the NATO ranks when he said, “It’s very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page. That’s what I am spending a lot of time doing. And there are differences… There are differences in NATO on what countries are willing to do, depending on what happens.”

With Russia occupying primacy as the prime adversary pitted against NATO, there is a lurking apprehension that it may pave the way for an onset of a new Cold War.

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The earlier Cold War (1947-1991), in the aftermath of the Second World War, saw the world divided into two camps—one led by the East of the Soviet Block and the other being the Western block led by the US.

Going against the grain of what most of the NATO and the West stands for, Schönbach had declared on Friday that Crimea has gone to the Russians for good besides stating that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘deserved respect’.

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Delivering a talk at the MPIDSA on Germany’s Indo-pacific strategy, the navy chief had said, ”Does Russia really wants small and tiny strip of Ukraine soil, to integrate the country. No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it, and he splits EU opinion. What he really wants is respect… And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost... It is easy to give him the respect he really demands—and probably also deserves.”

“Even we India, Germany we need Russia. We need Russia against China...Having this big country, even if it’s not a democracy, as a bilateral partner, gives them a chance. It’s easy and keeps Russia away from China because China needs resources of Russia.”

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Besides the apparent lack of cohesion in NATO, what makes it really different this time is the obvious and visible common purpose between Russia and China against the West which will add a deadlier dimension to the new Cold War.

Also Read: Russia demands US, NATO response next week on Ukraine

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