Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This Isn't Over: The Cold War in the 21st Century

The Cold War was widely considered to have ended, by many historians, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 - within my life time, as a matter of fact. In the years of falling action since, the threat of nuclear war is considered to have fallen by the wayside in both the political and practical worlds. Perestroika and Glasnost have rendered the new Russian Federation and the United States of America friends. Tensions between the countries of the "nuclear club" are at a low unprecedented since the advent of the weapon.

But every now and then something happens and for a brief, glorious moment, I'm living in 1967. That's how I felt about the way everyone reacted to the news a few years back that Russia had claimed the seabed below the north pole as national territory, and planted a titanium flag. That's how I still feel every time someone mutters "Communist" under their breath when they hear about improving relations with China (or the use of the word "socialist" as a political slur).

Tensions in the world are, to some degree, on the rise. Canada builds up her Arctic fleet in anticipation of a need to police Arctic shipping channels at some ill-defined future point when oil drilling and shipping north of the Circle will be economically viable, while Russia and America both claim jurisdiction (without claiming jurisdiction, of course).

And then, late last week, a Canadian Naval Intelligence Officer was arrested and charged with espionage, including something to the affect of passing sensitive information to a "foreign entity". CBC, CTV, and Telegraph Journal all immediately jumped on speculation that the foreign entity was Russia, without saying it actually was.

I do believe we are still responding viscerally to Russia, our generational monster-under-the-bed. Whether that is merited or not is trivial... the Cold War still plays out in the minds of many, including those who are pushing harder and harder for bolstering military presence in the Arctic. Only one enemy could invade us from the North... and that would be Russia.

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