The New Cold War review

The New Cold War

Mark MacKinnon
Vintage Canada

I recently finished reading this after starting it last August when I first came here. After beginning my job and getting other books, I stopped reading it and put it aside until January. It proved to be a very decent read with information that is quite relevant to current events in Russia and its neighbours, given last August’s brief conflict between Russia and Georgia and the gas crisis in January when Russia withheld gas transmissions to Europe during a spat with Ukraine.

The book is basically about the political contest in several former Soviet Union and Central Asian nations, especially Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia between Western-backed factions and Russia over the destiny of their nations. The outcomes have been successful revolutions in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia which brought pro-Western democratic leaders to power and ousted pro-Russian dictators and authoritarian regimes. On the other hand, less successful have been attempts in Belarus and in Central Asia. Furthermore the effect of the successful revolutions caused several Central Asian nations to intensify their oppressive rules and launch brutal crackdowns on democracy activists and NGOs, strengthening or at least tightening their rule.

Several American organizations including Open Society funded by billionaire George Soros, and the National Democratic Institute and National Endownment for Democracy which are part of or affiliated with the American Democrat and Republican parties, have spent loads of money funding, training and providing resources to various pro-democracy/Western organizations, as well as actually helping form new ones.
One understands how threatened Russia feels by this onset of pro-Western/ American regimes in nations that formerly were under its direct control. Russia has certainly tried to hit back with its own political support and manipulations which the book describes as well.

The New Cold War was published last year but in the current context of recent events, is especially relevant. It’s a good primer on understanding the politics in some of the former Soviet Republic countries and the geopolitical dynamics with the looming but declining presence of Russia.
One thing about the writing is the obvious and consistent portrayal of Russia as the villain and it’s only in the end where MacKinnon raises questions of the pro-democracy movements and potential manipulation by Western organizations. On the other hand, It is possible to determine that much of the emotion and impetus behind the pro-democracy movements in these nations were genuine, at least much too genuine to dismiss them as pure creations of the American organizations/ government.
The current tensions in Russia involving an opposition struggling against the government’s increasingly authoritarian measures seem to show some semblance of the same tensions the book describes, in Russia and in several of the former Soviet republics.