Tony Karon writes: Those in Washington nostalgic for the heady days of empire will proclaim 2014 as the year the Cold War resumed: Russia annexed Crimea and backed a secessionist movement in eastern Ukraine after its ally in Kiev was overthrown by a western-backed rebellion. Nato sounded dire warnings and its members imposed sanctions on Russia as the rhetoric on both sides turned decidedly old-school. US leaders berated Russian expansionism, while in Moscow the talk was about resisting Nato’s steady encirclement.
But the renewed US-Russia standoff is nothing remotely like the Cold War.
Geopolitical contests between Washington and Moscow dominated international affairs for the second half of the 20th century. The current Nato-Russia standoff, by contrast, is a petty regional conflict with scant effect on the rest of the world. As the Nato-Russia dispute simmered, the world pretty much got on with its own business – messy and chaotic as that business often was.
Sure, Moscow ended the year in financial turmoil as its currency plummeted, but that was largely a result of the global oil price being cut in half in a matter of six months.
And the fact that Moscow turned not to the International Monetary Fund when it needed to prop up the rouble but instead to China was a sign of just how much the global balance of economic power has changed.
Curiously enough, Barack Obama ended 2014 by finally telling Americans that more than a half-century of US- Cuba policy had failed, resuming diplomatic ties and easing the embargo.
Mr Obama’s decision is historic in US domestic politics, but it simply brings America into line with the rest of the world. The move won universal praise in Latin America, where governments have long maintained normal relations with Cuba and pressed the US to follow suit. Far from the US “backyard” of yore, Latin America today does more business with China, which has broken ground on an epic construction project to open a new transcontinental canal through Nicaragua. [Continue reading…]