Being played out on the world stage, in this early part of 2014, is what might superficially be taken as a repeat of the communism versus capitalism Cold War of the 20th century. It is nothing of the kind. There is no clash of political philosophies here. The drama now being enacted, with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the lead role, is the far older tale of lust for power. The story, as it unfolds, has added poignancy because this generation of world leaders has forgotten two vital lessons: How to oppose the ruthless pursuit of dominance, and the fact that in international politics, might is so often right – in other words, strength is respected and weakness despised.

It is now clear that Putin is determined to re-establish Russia as a major force in world politics. It took some time for the realization to sink in, and there has accordingly been little attempt to obstruct him. In Winston Churchill’s memorable words, US President Barack Obama and his administration have consistently reacted with “jaw jaw rather than war war” – forgetting that this was far from Churchill’s attitude in the 1930s to Adolf Hitler’s insatiable appetite for power and territory. While Obama havered and wavered, the relative balance of influence began to tilt against the United States and the West, while the world in general, and the Middle East in particular, started to reassess where its best interests lay.

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