East-West Tensions Growing ‘Dangerous’
By: Credit Suisse, March 23, 2015
At Credit Suisse’s 18th Annual Asian Investment Conference, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Dr. Bobo Lo, an independent Russian and Chinese foreign policy expert, discussed rising tensions in East-West relations. Economic sanctions, they said, have failed to deter President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to assert Russian influence in Eastern Europe, which argues for a clear response from the West that includes expanding military forces among NATO members.
In recent weeks, Poland has firmed its military ties to the West, while Denmark has contemplated participating in a NATO missile shield, while the Baltic States have voiced concerns over potential Russian aggression. “Actually I think we are entering an era which could be compared to the Cold War — a new Cold War,” Rasmussen said. “Russia of today is more dangerous than the Soviet Union,” because it is less predictable and more nimble.
Sanctions may have weakened Russia’s economy, but they have also strengthened its resolve to resist Western demands. “I have no great expectations for the future of (Russian-EU) relations,” Lo said. Russia “doesn’t take Europe seriously,” he added. Instead, he sees a divided Europe that is no longer capable of being a major player. “They feel like they can take whatever the West throws at them and emerge victorious at the end,” Lo said during the conference’s geopolitical risk panel discussion. “The more pressure they (Russia) are under, the harder they will fight.”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is also former Prime Minister of Denmark, lamented the failure of partnerships between the West and Russia, saying the East-West relationship had become more dangerous in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “I see it as a very dangerous situation with long-ranging consequences,” Rasmussen said.
Both Lo and Rasmussen advocate stronger collective defense among NATO members, which could include additional military expenditures, reducing dependence on U.S. military support. “We cannot be spooked. If we think that we can somehow appease our way out of the crisis, then we are gravely mistaken,” Lo said.
China’s economic rise has added another dimension to the equation, counterbalancing U.S. and European influence. Both the U.S. and Russia have reoriented more toward China and Asia in recent years. “It doesn’t necessarily mean a greater interest in Asia,” Lo said. “It’s more accurately a turn away from the West.”