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By DARSHAN PAL SARASWATPublished about a month ago 3 min read

### The Modern Cold War: Lessons from History and the Path Forward

Today, the world finds itself in a tense standoff reminiscent of the Cold War, with Russia and China challenging the international order. The big question is: Will this new confrontation end peacefully like the first Cold War, or will it spiral into a devastating third world war due to strategic blunders on both sides?

Adolph Hitler's miscalculations before World War II are hauntingly similar to the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping today. In the years leading up to World War II, the international community repeatedly failed to stand up to Hitler, hoping that his promises of peace were genuine. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's declaration of "peace in our time" after meeting Hitler in 1938 turned out to be tragically short-lived. Similarly, the West has, until recently, made the same mistake with Russia and China.

Putin's aggressive moves — the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 — were initially met with insufficient resistance. Some Western leaders still treat Putin as a normal leader, ignoring the fact that he aims to rebuild the former Soviet Union.

Economic interests often cloud national security decisions regarding Russia, just as they did with Nazi Germany. The same goes for China, which poses an even greater threat to the United States. American business interests often pressure political leaders to soften or remove measures designed to counter China’s economic tactics. This dynamic echoes the infamous observation attributed to Lenin that "capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them."

The current East-West standoff is not just about territory; it's a clash of ideologies. Like the original Cold War, it's a battle over fundamental values and the future of the global order. The stakes are existential for both sides. This ideological confrontation was made clear when Xi and Putin announced their “no-limits strategic partnership” just before Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine. They argued that Western attempts to impose democratic standards threaten global stability, asserting that only the people of a country should decide its system of government.

In practice, this means that those who challenge the Russian state, like opposition leader Alexei Navalny, often end up in prison or dead. The lesson from history is clear: rulers who oppress their own people and gain enough power to threaten their neighbors usually do so. This was true for Hitler, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and China’s Mao Zedong, and it is true for today’s leaders in Russia and China.

The principle of national sovereignty often clashes with international humanitarian norms that forbid genocide and crimes against humanity. In recent years, the international community has embraced the concept of a "Responsibility to Protect." This means that when a government cannot or will not stop a humanitarian crisis, the international community has a duty to intervene. However, with powerful countries like China and Russia, direct military intervention is not feasible. Instead, the world must rely on economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and moral condemnation.

These non-military approaches helped end apartheid in South Africa and contributed to the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin, however, has called the Soviet Union's fall "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."

The West must learn from its past mistakes and avoid repeating them. The policy of appeasement that led to World War II was forgotten in recent decades as Russia became more aggressive and China grew stronger. China, under Deng Xiaoping, followed a strategy of hiding its strength and biding its time. Xi Jinping has abandoned this cautious approach and is openly challenging the West.

China's narrative of a "century of humiliation" by Western powers parallels Hitler’s condemnation of the Treaty of Versailles. Both use historical grievances to justify aggressive policies. Western guilt, fear, and greed led to decades of policies that enabled China’s rise, contrary to Beijing’s claims of being contained.

Fortunately, there is now a bipartisan consensus in the West about the threat posed by China. Learning from history, the West must stand firm against aggression and uphold international norms to ensure a peaceful resolution to today’s Cold War-like tensions. The future depends on strategic wisdom and the willingness to confront threats with unity and resolve.

Disclaimer :- This content has been created by an AI language model and is intended to provide general information. While we strive to deliver accurate and reliable content, it may not always reflect the latest developments or expert opinions. The content should not be considered as professional or personalized advice. We encourage you to seek professional guidance and verify the information independently before making decisions based on this content.

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