Recent tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia's actions in Ukraine and the reclaiming of Crimea is raising the specter of the Cold War. Before the situation reverts back to the ways of the old days and relations reach the freezing point, it might be worth looking back to see how we have reached this point, and perhaps learn from history.
As you ponder that question, at the same time think of the billions of dollars that are spent each year maintaining the various elements that makes up what is referred to in the United States as the Intelligence Community (IC). In return for all this taxpayer's money being spent and as a result of their intelligence gathering, the agencies are meant to be able to foretell and forewarn policy makers of major political events and how those events may affect national security.
Yet in spite of all available resources the U.S. intelligence community failed to predict two events of gargantuan proportions and importance: the fall of the Berlin Wall along with the demise of communism, and some years later the resurgence of Russia as a major player in global politics.
The combined budget of the U.S. intelligence community for the year 2014 is $45.225 billion.
The exact numbers of people involved is a closely guarded secret as deep cover agents may be known only to their handlers, the agents back in the U.S. or perhaps overseas to whom these spies report, but one U.S. government source places the number at about 200,000.
The IC is composed of no fewer than 17 different agencies, each one operating independently from the other. Each member agency operates under its own directive.
The most known is the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Its primary mission is to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence. This intelligence is intended to help government policy makers in making national security and defense decisions. The CIA is not meant to make policy recommendations.
Then there is the Department of Energy, Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. The DOE is responsible for U.S. energy policy and nuclear safety. They provide timely technical intelligence analysis on all aspects of foreign nuclear weapons, nuclear materials and energy issues worldwide.
We have the Department of Homeland Security, Intelligence and Analysis. Formed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., their mission is to equip the Homeland Security Enterprise with the intelligence and information it needs to keep the Homeland safe, secure, and resilient.
The Department of State, Intelligence and Research (DOS) handles intelligence analysis, policy, and coordination of intelligence activities in support of diplomacy. They provide a wide range of intelligence support to the Secretary of State and other policymakers, ambassadors, special negotiators, country directors and desk officers. The DOS is the Secretary of State's principal adviser on all intelligence matters.
The Department of Treasury, Office of Intelligence and Analysis advises policymakers on domestic and international financial, monetary, economic, trade and tax policy and provide focused intelligence support to Treasury officials.
The Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, is one of four major intelligence agencies that along with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency make up the Department of Defense. Those are not to be confused with the U.S. Air Force, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, U.S. Army, Army Military Intelligence; U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Intelligence; U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, U.S. Navy, Naval Intelligence.
There is also the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, responsible for enforcing federal controlled substances laws and regulations.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an intelligence and law enforcement agency tasked with understanding threats to national security and penetrating national, as well as transnational, networks that wish to and are capable of harming the U.S. They focus on terrorist organizations, foreign intelligence services, weapons proliferators, and criminal enterprises. Initially the FBI was not meant to operate overseas, but was restricted to operating in the United States. Intelligence gathering, espionage and counterespionage were meant to be the domain of the CIA but after 9/11 many things changed and the FBI began opening up bureaus overseas.
And last, but by no means least, is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The ODNI was established in 2004 to manage the extensive efforts of the IC. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) heads up the ODNI and serves as the principal advisor to the president, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council. The DNI also coordinates intelligence matters related to the Department of Defense.
When the Berlin Wall fell and communism went bankrupt and withered away, a number of foreign policy experts in the U.S. and Europe -this analyst included - said it would be a tragic mistake to treat Russia as a defeated superpower. Rather, the belief was that Russia should be hailed as one of the nations who had defeated communism.
While Bush, pere, (also knows as Bush 41, the 41st president) was careful not to shove the Soviet defeat in their face, the same cannot be said of the arrogant son, Bush 43, (also known as the Mini Shrub). He took the U.S. into two wars in what used to be Soviet hunting grounds.
"Ignoring the lessons of history, dominant voices in the West couldn't resist humiliating Russia as a defeated superpower and pushing NATOs frontiers ever closer to the former enemy. This, in turn, fed long-held Russian fears of encirclement," writes Arnaud de Borchgrave, one of the sharpest minds and top political analyst and former Newsweek chief correspondent.
De Borchgrave says of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "Russia's new Czar, a former KGB colonel in East Germany during the tail end of the Cold War, was biding his time to get even with the American superpower. Putin's decision to reintegrate Crimea in mother Russia -- once handed by Nikita Khrushchev to Ukraine at the end of a long liquid evening--was a bold move regarded by most Russians as long overdue."
The U.S. and the West badly played their cards - which they dealt themselves - and in the process played themselves into a corner.
First, a large part of Europe depends on Russian gas to heat homes, offices and factories. Second, the U.S. is counting on Russia to help the U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan when it happens later this year. The shortest route, through Pakistan and to the Gulf is unsafe and cannot be secured. Russia is offering safe passage through its territory to a Baltic port - for a price, of course. And finally, the U.S. depends on Russia to get its astronauts to/from the International Space Station, as it no longer has any working spacecraft.
Given the above facts places the whole notion of who won and who lost the Cold War in a new light. Does it not?
--Claude Salhani is senior editor at Trend Agency in Baku and a political analyst specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and terrorism. You can follow him on Twitter @claudesalhani