A third world war has been going on since at least NATO’s bombing of Belgrade in 1999 and Russia’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, Aleksey Venediktov says. But it is a very different war than those in the past, one where the participants are not trying to seize territory but rather secure influence over other states.
In this conflict, which may go from cold to hot, the editor of Ekho Moskvy tells Kazan’s Business Gazeta in an interview portions of which were posted online today, “Russia has no allies” and thus can depend on no one but itself as events both planned and unplanned unfold (business-gazeta.ru/article/378902).
This war or more hopefully conflict “really is a world wide one; it is simply that certain players like China are not very visible, but they are taking an active part in it.” The goal in this conflict is different than that in the past: earlier states sought to gain territory; now, however, they are seeking not the territorial re-division of the world but rather one of influence.
Putin, Venediktov continues, constantly refers to the need to return to the Yalta-Potsdam system in which “every great power has its own sphere of influence.” But Ronald Reagan in 1987 made clear that there would never be a Yalta-type system again. That has remained US policy.
But the important thing for Moscow to remember is that “in this war, Russia does not have any allies,” the Ekho Moskvy editor says. “Putin,” he continues, “is an extraordinarily careful individual … Therefore, I think, if he were to sense the chance of a shift of the war into a hot phase, he would take measures,” knowing the capacities of the Western allies and China.
The danger of escalation even to a nuclear exchange nonetheless exists because of the possibilities of accidents. When the militaries of various countries are in one place, their commanders may respond “without waiting for a call from Moscow or Washington or Jerusalem or Damascus” and then things can go wrong.
According to Venediktov, the forces of both Russia and the Western allies “have received orders to avoid any clash. But I am concerned because an accident is possible,” one that was like the downing of a Russian plane by Turkey. If something like that happened again, then there is “a high degree of probability” that it could “lead to an escalation, political at a minimum.”