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Steffen A. Wöll

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The Second Cold War


In the light of the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, there has been much talk about the clouding of US-Russian relations. Some voices in the Internet’s alternative media sections have conjured the possibility that these conflicts might lead to a new major war, while social networks like Twitter saw the usage of the hashtags #WorldWarIII and #WorldWar3 explode after Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet in the vicinity of the Syrian border. Headlines in mainstream media outlets like Foreign Policy and the Guardian also proclaimed, “Welcome to Cold War III” and asked “are we going back to the bad old days?”.

This article suggests that although the ideological division of the Cold War ended de facto with the collapse of the Soviet Union, American geopolitical schemes to contain Russian power abroad have never really been abandoned. Throughout the 1990s and until today, US policymakers have been determined to wage overt or covert proxy wars with the aim of curbing its former adversary’s political, economic, and military influence. Chechnya, Ukraine, and Syria are the key spots where the logic of this second Cold War is played out.

A short glance over the state of the world today and its representation in the media suffices to identify a growing number of actual and potential centers of conflicts: Civil war is raging in parts of Ukraine, military tensions are growing in the South Chinese Sea, and the Middle East is more of a mess than ever. Nonetheless, some have suggested that the actual number of armed conflicts has actually reached a historical low. But this assertion is solely based on statistical preference.
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