Discovery Guides Areas


Recent Tensions between Russia and the West
(Released May 2008)

  by Fiona Allison  


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Despite all the above factors and the Kremlin's current anti-Western stance, a new Cold War is highly unlikely. While the world is a very different place to that of forty or fifty years ago, it is true that there is still a culture of spying, distrust and political rows. Russia deeply resents Western interference in their matters such as the elections and issues of human rights. Although tensions are unlikely to ease with the West in the near future, particularly with the United States, money does make the world go round. The massive impact of economic globalisation and lucrative trade agreements have so far prevented these political disagreements from escalating any further than verbally. Russia's economic boom is mostly due to its exports of natural gas and oil.
man working equipment
Europe receives 80 percent of Russian gas imports through pipelines that cross Ukraine
In fact oil, natural gas, metals and timber add up to more than 80 percent of Russia's exports and makes up more than 30 percent of government income.7 The state-run Gazprom supplies one-third of Western Europe's gas; this includes Britain.8 According to Gazprom, in Russia's vast but largely inaccessible expanses it has the largest natural gas and oil reserves in the world.9 Russia needs the revenues from its gas and other exports as much as Western Europe needs the supply. Taking this into account, the West and Russia need to maintain their trade agreements, for the health of the economies on both sides. Russia has been so verbally aggressive towards the West because there is not one pro-Europe or pro-West party in the Russian parliament. Strong nationalistic feelings have increased in Russia; the general stance of the Kremlin is being enforced on the Russian people, by adding to a sense of Russian isolation and existing Russian nationalist sentiment. Putin did immensely well in shrewdly turning the instability of the 1990s to his own advantage, through blaming the economic crises and hyperinflation which occurred immediately after the collapse of Communism on Western interference, and on Russia's pro-Western leaders at the time. Putin has thus capitalised on, and intensified anti-West feeling throughout Russia and has been using the growing economy to reinforce this after Russian was left weak in the years immediately following the collapse of Communism. Under Putin the country has gained new strength on a global scale, largely due to its oil and natural gas.

By definition a cold war, as opposed to a 'hot' or shooting war, is a state of extreme hostility between global superpowers, including an arms race, ideological and diplomatic conflict, and hostile measures of many kinds except military confrontation. In this sense a political feud, containing some elements of a cold war between the superpowers, is in the early stages, but not the new Cold War as the ideological conflict is lacking today. It is impossible to say what will happen between Russia and the West in the near future. Perhaps disagreements can be reconciled though at the moment this seems unlikely; a complete breakdown in diplomacy is unexpected but is still a possibility. For the West this will be the worst case scenario and Western nations are wary of provoking Russia any further, but Russia also needs to ease its aggressive rhetoric in order to maintain global stability and prevent these political rows from escalating into something deeper.

© 2008, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals


  1. 'Russian Federation: Freedom limited- the right to freedom of expression in Russia'
    Amnesty International. February 2008
    dfab-11dc-9aa6-8db94730801c/eur4600820008eng.pdf \

  2. 'Litvinenko death fuels UK - Russia spy war'
    BBC News. November 2007

  3. 'A new phase in the arms race is unfolding says Putin'
    Shaun Walker, The Independent. February 2008


  5. 'Russia warns US over Kosovo move.'
    BBC News. February 2008

  6. 'OSCE PA will not observe Russian presidential election'
    OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. February 2008

  7. 'Monitors criticise Russian poll'
    BBC News. March 2008

  8. 'CIA - The World Factbook - Russia'
    CIA. Last updated March 2008

  9. 'Europe' Gazprom. Date unknown

  10. 'Gas Resources' Gazprom. 2005

All websites were downloaded in April of 2008.