The Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Things were fine for a time, but in recent years tensions have begun to emerge between these two nations. Policy makers in both Washington and Moscow seem to be reverting to their old habits of a Cold War mentality, and some have even said that we are witnessing the beginnings of a Second Cold War. But Cold War is not a natural state. In the over one-hundred and fifty year history of relations between the United States and Russia, only forty of those years made up the Cold War. The majority of these years were characterized by peace, and there were even times when the two called each other allies. Now must be another of those times.
The global threats of international terrorism, nuclear containment and proliferation, and plateauing energy supplies cannot be resolved by either the United States or Russia alone. Working for cross-purposes on these issues would lead to failure on both sides. However, due to the existing high tensions over American Anti-Ballistic Missile Diplomacy, NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, and Russia’s invasion of Georgia, fruitful negotiations on these issues would be next to impossible at the present time.
The solution must be a confidence building measure, but one as far from Eastern Europe and the Caucuses as possible; one excellent opportunity is in Japan. Near the end of World War II, the issue of Russian involvement in the war with Japan was one of the issues of contention which would lead to the Cold War. Because of America’s role in Japan during the Cold War, Japan and the Soviet Union would never reach a peace agreement officially ending World War II. Since the end of the Cold War, low motivation and a minor border dispute have kept the two from reaching an official peace agreement. America’s role in these negotiations will be to nudge the two towards peace, while at the same time signaling to Russia that the Cold War is officially over and that the United States is open to discussions on the true issues of contention.
The United States needs Russia’s help with its greatest challenges as it continues in the twenty-first century. The time to end the Second Cold War is now.