IN THE AFTERMATH of the recent events in Ukraine, cold war is being murmured in the corners of governmental institutions worldwide. Is the current world order in a different state then we thought? Does the time, where we fought for territory, not belong to the history books? The past months have not only changed the map of Europe, but ripped open old wounds between the West and the East that we thought to be healed.
I take the optimistic stance. Not only is the geo-political landscape nowhere like the one we saw 20-30 years ago, but today we live in a far more merged and globalized world. Europe is not only economically, politically and institutionally intertwined with Russia, but connected on levels of relations between people and education. As politicians jerkily stumble through descriptions of the new situation in Ukraine and Russia, many media outlets are lazily grabbing the most obvious reporting frame – that of the the Cold War. Not only is this outdated, but also boring, uncreative and unhelpful in understanding the complexity of the situation.
Discourse is a powerful tool in constructing reality and can have mayor political and social consequences. It is therefore regrettable, that even-though times are clearly different, politicians and media alike have adapted a cold war discourse when discussing the recent developments on the global scene. It is eminently important to constantly re-evaluate the tone of the discussion. Unfortunately, only few media outlets are engaging in this process.
For the most, the reporting frame suggest Cold War conditions, where Russia is the global bully and the Westerners are the saints fighting for peace and freedom. When NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his recent speech in Washington states: “[…] this is the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War”, then, the situation is becoming slippery. The Danish newspaper Politiken writes “The air is still cold between East and West”. An even more extreme Foreign Policy article is welcoming us to “Cold War II”. However upsetting the recent events are, this rhetorical framework leads to nowhere good. I fear it is counterproductive and destructive of the relations we have made with the Russians the past years.
As we, the media, evaluate the political scene and constructs the future we must restrain from the temptation of stigmatizing the debate and keep on working towards strengthening the institutional agreements so to restore a world order, where it is possible to understand actions beyond Cold War philosophy.
If European media and politicians chooses the path of cold-war-rhetoric and military buildup as a consequence (as many politicians are now arguing for), then we will, very quickly, find ourselves within a world order that has resemblance to past times – Foreign Policy’s warning may prove to be well-placed.