The West Faces a New Cold War With Democracy Under Threat Again

The West Faces a New Cold War With Democracy Under Threat Again
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a rally of his supporters after the country’s abortive July 15 coup, Istanbul, Aug. 7, 2016 (Presidential Press Service photo by Kayhan Ozer via AP).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series inviting authors to identify the biggest priority—whether a threat, risk, opportunity or challenge—facing the international order and U.S. foreign policy today.

Just 25 years after winning the Cold War, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, the United States is facing a very different world than the one many had expected. Instead of a world of relative peace, with no proxy wars in developing countries and no major global geostrategic opponents, there is violence and terrorism around the globe, much of it inspired by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. There are major geostrategic conflicts with an assertive Russia and a bolder China, with proxy wars with Russia of varying levels in Syria, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia and a complex struggle for influence with China in Asia and the Pacific, with possible flashpoints in the South China Sea. But perhaps most dismaying is the decline or even collapse of democratic governance in U.S. allies such as Thailand and Turkey, along with the fracturing of the European Union.

The U.S. and its European and Pacific allies thus find themselves facing a new Cold War. While the risks of a nuclear exchange seem far less than in the 1960s, they cannot be wholly discounted, as a nuclear-armed Russia and China are building up their military presence in areas where an accidental confrontation with NATO or the U.S. is a real threat. Yet the closest similarity to the Cold War is that Western democracies again find themselves forced to argue for the value of universal human rights against heavily armed and confident major powers for whom democracy and human values are seen as threats to be defeated. Today the global advance of democracy is being countered by a multifaceted and aggressive strategy embracing proxy wars, propaganda and the new tools of cyberattacks, as well as domestic coercion.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.