Nation Contributing Editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussion of the new East-West Cold War. Accelerating a trend already evident as a result of the Syrian crisis, according to Cohen, the savage terrorist acts on Paris almost immediately resulted in a French-Russian military alliance against the Islamic State in Syria, with French President Hollande and most of Europe dramatically breaking with the Obama Administration’s nearly two-year-old policy of “isolating Putin’s Russia” over the Ukrainian crisis.
European-Russian political detente will almost certainly follow, but, Cohen points out, uncertainties remain. European leadership in regard to Russia may now shift to Hollande from German Chancellor Merkel, whose own leadership is in growing crisis due to her policies toward Greece, Ukraine and the Middle Eastern refugees flooding the European continent. Europe’s economic sanctions on Russia due to Ukraine remain, but for how long?
More generally, in another crucial development already under way before the terrorist acts in Paris, Europe now seems to accept Putin’s longstanding argument that reversing the advances of the Islamic State requires strengthening the Syrian state and its army as “boots on the ground,” and thus Syrian President Assad himself, not removing Assad as the Obama administration has insisted for almost two years. Meanwhile, Europe’s support for the US-backed regime in Kiev, yet another government in deepening crisis, continues to wane. Indeed, the events in Paris and the emerging detente between Western Europe and support for the US-backed regime–including, it seems, even the UK’s Cameron government–may end it altogether.
If nothing else, Paris and its aftermath demonstrate the growing decline of Washington’s leadership and influence even with its own Western alliance. In short, Cohen concludes, another dual historic process long under way has been accelerated by the tragedy of Paris: the United States can no longer play its self-declared hegemonic, or “only super-power,” role in the world, and Russia has returned to the center stage of world affairs.