Can the US resist a Twenty-First Century Cold War?

By Haridos Apostolides, US Correspondent

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Once again President Obama is facing resistance in his flanks, handling more than just the Russians over the Ukraine situation. Congressional Republicans in Washington have demanded more action be taken, believing the current sanctions against the Russians are not enough.

Senator John McCain denounced the reprimands, calling them “wholly inadequate” for trying to force only a handful of Russians into compliance.

Further right, Tea Party darling Senator Ted Cruz criticized the White House’s current procedures whilst seeking support for a US military presence in Eastern Europe.

On Monday, the Senator from Texas stated, “the most important thing we could be doing right now, with respect to Russia, is installing anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe,” adding “appeasement has not worked.”

Early Twentieth-Century rhetoric like ‘appeasement’ has begun to raise strong comparisons between the ‘thens’ and ‘nows’ of US-Russian relations.

Demands by Congressional Republicans to push back against Russia have grown considerably. Members of Congress have reacted personally against Russian responses in recent years. It caused uproar when Russia granted asylum to Edward Snow after he leaked classified intelligence. A massive dent was made to American foreign policy authority when they went against the US over attacking Assad and Syria. And these were only made worse when Forbes’ “Most Powerful” list publicly demoted Obama for the first time in three years, from first-to-second rung. Embarrassingly his Russian counterpart replaced him.

And then there’s the New York Times piece where President Vladimir Putin not only clarified the US’s place in the world today, but also dismissed America’s idealist belief it is an “exceptional” nation. These events have all exacerbated the situation between the two powers and those in Washington are not happy to take a back seat to a Russian Federation when it comes to global influence.

Many, including the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, have openly mocked Obama’s sanction announcements, tweeting, ‘what should those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn’t think about it?’ (sic)

Calling for arms to be placed in Eastern Europe echoes the long history of American action abroad. And Putin would mark the “Free World” as both antagonists and initiators in the dispute should troops be deployed.

Placing anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe, as Senator Cruz hopes, would be the most aggressive action taken by the US since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s. The Russians would undoubtedly, even justifiably, reciprocate in kind to such open aggression so close to their borders.

Putin’s defence, his determination to assist any Russian speaking Crimeans, resonates with decades of US foreign policy. “America will stand by its allies”, “American interests will not be interfered with,” and neither, apparently, will Russia’s.

And with a world losing faith in hypocritical American diplomacy, it is probable the world, unlike the days of the Cold War, may align itself behind a Russian Federation trying to defend those in their own hemisphere.

Congress, once again, are playing foreign policy hardball. Earlier this year the Senate took steps against Iran, and now it seems it is Russia’s turn.

Advocates in Congress are placing themselves in a dangerous position. America is a fading super power and many in the White House and Capitol are unwilling to admit the downfall.

Senator Cruz is no doubt trying to sound tough on foreign policy – an area where Republicans usually win – to increase pressure on Obama. With mid-term elections coming up in November, and with Cruz currently flirting with a presidential run, hard-hitting declarations to the press keeps him constantly relevant. Hopefully the Ukrainian crisis will be resolved peacefully and quickly, either with or without Crimea intact, and Russian troops pulled away from the borders.

One can only hope President Obama will not be swayed from his current course by calls for military intervention. However, with Russia currently positioned in the world’s hot seat, re-establishing itself as a power, super or not, it is unlikely Washington and Moscow diplomats have the willpower to ensure any hostility remains Cold.

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