Saturday, January 22, 2022

New Cold War will End as Old One Did, with Victory of Democracies and Disintegration of Russia, Participants in Free Russia Forum Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 2 – The first cold war ended with the apparent triumph of democracy over dictatorships in the former Soviet bloc and with the disintegration of the USSR into newly independent states. The new cold war Vladimir Putin’s policies have given rise to will end with the same two outcomes, participants at this year’s Free Russia Forum say.

            But just as the first cold war lasted for decades, so too may the second, the activists who have assembled in Vilnius this week say, with untold suffering that could be avoided if the second cold war had not begun or if it were to end sooner with the help of activism at home and abroad (

            Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev was explicit in saying that “the new Cold War will end just as the previous one did with the victory of the democratic world.” Authoritarian states like Russia and China may be able to threaten others, but they cannot sustain over the long term the economic modernization that is required.

            Mariya Snegova of George Washington University was more pessimistic, viewing the successes such regimes have had in eradicating civil society as an indication that they may have greater staying power than their predecessors. But Mantas Adomenas, Lithuania’s deputy foreign minister, says that this is all a question of time.

            Authoritarian regimes sometimes are able to mobilize militarily far more quickly than their democratic opponents, but their very aggressiveness leads the democracies over time to rebuild their strengths and their commitments to fighting autocracy. The more aggressive Russia becomes, the faster that will happen.  And it won’t be too late for a victory.

            Meanwhile, Free Russia leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky argues that the second cold war will have another outcome resembling that of the first. It will see the disintegration of the Russian Federation because that country can either be in its current borders or a democracy but it can’t be both (

            “I very much fear that if Putin will remain in power as long as he wants, he will lead us to a situation when the preservation of existing geographic borders will fall under question because it is obvious that conflicts [within the Russian Federation] are intensifying.” If they all come together at once, it will be impossible to hold things together.

            “Russia can be either a single country or it can be democratic,” but it can’t be both at the same time, Khodorkovsky concludes. And because eventually it will be democratic, it will come apart just as the USSR did 30 years ago. 

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