More than 60 social actors have published an appeal in the German mass media called "A new war in Europe? Not in our name!" They mainly criticize the upheaval in Ukraine and the role played by the democratic countries, including Germany, concerning the conflict with Russia. According to the signatories, Russia (and Vladimir Putin) are afraid of being encircled by NATO.
Russia has every right to be afraid of a new "Iron Curtain." All the promises made to Yeltsin after the demise of the Soviet system have been largely forgotten. Sometimes for good reasons, but seemingly, NATO was not to be expanded. So Putin, since 2012, has started to use rhetoric that is very reminiscent of bipolar world times. It has definitely found fertile ground in Germany, as stated by Süddeutsche Zeitung, which underlines that this new "Cold War turning into a hot war," especially visible in Ukraine, is having very deep, negative effects among German public opinion.
According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the real problem in Russia is not Putin and the Russian government feeling threatened by NATO, but by its own public opinion. Everyone knows that elections in Russia are neither democratic nor transparent, which ignited a huge popular uprising in 2012, in the aftermath of presidential elections won by Putin.
The present situation of Russia against NATO countries can hardly be compared to the Cold War period. At the time of the Soviet Union, socialist countries had an international system of labor and production sharing and did not depend on capitalist liberal countries' economies, or only to a marginal degree.
Today, not only is there no socialist system left, but the capitalistic functioning that has replaced the old Soviet system, in the absence of a main regulatory legal framework, has produced a very anarchical web of social, economic and political relations that has totally undermined the possibility of marketable industrial production. Corruption has attained such a level that finished products cost less in the market than their initial costs. This is possible only if one takes into consideration the huge margin of bribery. As a result, Russia exports raw materials, mainly oil, natural gas and gold, to get stable revenues.
As a matter of fact, Russia is more dependent on the sale of natural gas to European countries than European countries are dependent on Russia's transiting gas. There is a very deep interdependence that does not allow either Russia or the European NATO countries to envisage any durable freezing of their mutual economic and trading ties. The recent embargo on some Russian products has shown the limits of "economic weapons" the EU can use. Anyhow, Russia is unable to overcome these restrictions, at least through Turkey if not through Asian countries.
Putin, on the other hand, largely uses the rhetoric of an encircled fortress, very popular in Stalin's era, but very unconvincing today. Russia has large latitude to carry out deep trading relations with the West, as well as with the vibrant Chinese economy. Compared to the times of Khrushchev or Brezhnev, Russia enjoys a margin of maneuver unseen for a century.
This is not to say that Putin's Russia is well integrated into the international system. It is not, and it has a very harmful capacity to make things go bad in countries where regimes are in transition. Syria and Ukraine are the best examples. So it is a wise idea to tackle Putin on grounds that are important for him, especially for energy transportation. But it is not really efficient to think that a nice dose of pacifism in Europe will increase Putin's (and his Greek Cypriot submarine's) thrust towards the EU and the U.S.
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