Cold War relapse could see China emerge as real winner

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev seemed to have turned back the clock when he warned of a "new Cold War" with the West at the recent Munich Security Conference. His comments were preceded by a similar statement from James Clapper, director of national intelligence for the US Talk of a new freeze between Russia and the West is nothing new and comes up whenever tensions run high between the two sides.

US-Russian relations have hit a new post-Soviet nadir due to differences over the security architecture in Europe, and the situation in Syria, Ukraine and North Korea. The two countries have numerous conflicting security interests in Europe. After the Cold War ended, Russia argued for establishing a new security framework in Europe that would go beyond existing institutions borne of those tensions, such as NATO.

The US rejected these calls, however, and NATO decided to expand into former Warsaw Pact member states in 1994. Since then, 10 former Soviet satellite states have joined NATO, bringing the US-led security group to Russia's borders. Moscow sees this expansion toward it, including the installation of missile defences, as a containment strategy.

The rift has been exacerbated by accusations from Western politicians that Russia is funding opposition parties in Europe in a bid to destroy the European Union. They also accuse Russia of using Syrian refugees as a weapon to further divide the EU. US Senator John McCain has said Russia is deliberately bombing civilian targets in Syria so that people there will flee to Europe. He expressed concern that a worsening of the refugee crisis will undermine the European project.

Russia staged a coup of sorts through military intervention in favour of beleaguered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This has provided him a lifeline against Western powers, which want to see his ouster. In Ukraine, both sides differ over the implementation of the Minsk Protocol

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