TOLEDO, Spain – Does the war in the Caucasus herald the coming of Cold War II? Or is it a Russian invitation to the West to reshape the global status quo that has prevailed since the end of Cold War I?
Russia’s military is certainly not fit for a global confrontation with the West. Not only did Russian intelligence fail to catch the coming Georgian attack on South Ossetia, but Russia’s electronic warfare system and ill-equipped ground troops looked like outdated Soviet-era relics.
Then again, a war does not have to display state-of-the-art weaponry to convey a powerful political message. After all, America’s global leverage is dwindling even as its army remains the most sophisticated military machine in history. By showing that the United States has lost its monopoly on the unilateral use of force, and by invading an American ally – which even the Soviet Union never dared – Russia blatantly challenged the Pax Americana that emerged from the US victory in the Cold War.
The war in Georgia could not have happened if America had not mishandled its global hegemony so disastrously. The US entered a calamitous war in Iraq, missed more than one opportunity to engage Iran's revolutionary regime, pushed for unending expansion of NATO onto the doorstep of Russia, and haughtily ignored Russia’s protests against the deployment of missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Under the cover of the “war on terror,” the US played into Russia’s fear of encirclement through its military penetration into Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.