The specter of the Cold War appears to be upon us again. Yet it may not be similar to the global tensions that gripped the world during most of the 20th century. This time around the war may be economic rather than military.
To understand the times it is important, as always, to look at the fundamental interests that are driving the geopolitics between the democratic, opulent West and the up and coming China and a Russia yearning to carve out its place in the post-Soviet world.
The West wants an end to authoritarianism in China and Russia and elsewhere in the world such as in Iran. It wants regime changes. China and Russia are seeking the end of American and West European economic hegemony. The war is about how much the West is willing to invest in changing the rest of the world to be democratic while maintaining its economic clout which is being increasingly challenged by an authoritarian China.
China and Russia, unlike the West which ties economic development to democracy, are not interested in spreading their brand of economic development under authoritarianism but in expanding their economic influence in the world with no political conditions attached, especially at a time of weakness in American democratic capitalism. In the world, the West wants to spread democracy as a condition to economic development and growth, but China and Russia do not want to spread authoritarianism. The geopolitics of China and Russia is agnostic to political systems so as not to repeat the mistake of the Cold War.
The New Cold War, unlike the Cold War of the past century, is about the uneasy coexistence of economic competition between two poles of differing political systems – between democracy and authoritarianism.
We should only hope that it will end in more democracy in the world and in economically egalitarian societies.