Not a new Cold War: Great Game II

04.08.14

Not a new Cold War: Great Game II

04.08.14
Art

This is just a short introductory excerpt from a longer piece published on the EthZ International Relations and Security Network (ISN) here.

Suddenly the talk is of a new Cold War between Russia and the West, as Crimea is quietly written off as “lost” for the foreseeable future and the diplomatic focus moves to preventing a further—and potentially devastating—move into eastern Ukraine. While an understandable metaphor, though, this is a dangerous one. The Cold War, for all its brinkmanship and proxy conflicts, was a relatively stable and even rules-bound process. Instead, in this new “hot peace,” perhaps a better, if less comfortable analogy would be the Great Game, that (since mythologized) nineteenth-century era of imperial rivalry over Central Asia between Britain and Russia,, the freewheeling nineteenth-century struggle for authority in Central Asia. One of the particular characteristics of the original Great Game was that there was little real distinction between the instruments of conventional conflict and competition such as wars, diplomatic missions and treaties and those of the informal realm, from subsidized bandit chieftains to third-party intelligence freelancers.

ArtAlthough even during the Cold War there was a place for the mercenary, gangster and assassin this was, it has to be said, very much at the periphery. Even proxy wars fought by irregulars, such as the mujahideen resisting the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Viet Cong in Vietnam, were more-or-less formally acknowledged by their patrons. Now, though, Great Game II is one in which open state actions, deniable missions by state agents and the activities of mercenary agents (from computer hackers to local warlords) blend much more seamlessly. Furthermore, the nature of those operations ranges from military missions and shows of force, through espionage and sabotage, to subversion and misdirection by paid mouthpieces and front companies.

This article was originally posted in In Moscow’s Shadows.

  • Pete Souza

    What We Always Knew: The TPP and Intellectual Property

  • Associated Press

    The Hajj Stampede Exacerbates Saudi-Iranian Tension

  • European People's Party

    Portugal: European Left Batting 1,000

  • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

    How the Gulf Nations Can Stop the Refugee Crisis

  • Mindy McAdams

    The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – Laudable, but how Realistic?

  • Reuters

    For First Time in 12 Years, Iraq’s Green Zone Open to the Public

  • Reuters

    Stripping Canadian Citizenship

  • JVGMB23/flickr

    The Invisible Female Victims of Ukraine