We are coming up on June 28, 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of the outbreak of World War I, when a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, then 19 years of age, jumped onto the running board of the motorcar of illustrious Austrian visitors and fired two shots, killing the heir to the empire's throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife.
Had not the implication of the Serbian intelligence service in the attack seemed to be so patent, and had not the resentment of Serbia at the annexation by Austria-Hungary in 1908 of Sarajevo's hinterland -- Bosnia-Herzegovina -- been so intense, the "civilized world," as it was then known, might not have stumbled into the horrific experience of World War I, which broke out some six weeks later.
As this anniversary approaches, there is a new and vaguely similar feeling of uncertainty occasioned by the recent Russian land grab -- as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden put it -- of the Crimean Peninsula. Although no one would visualize a return to the trench warfare of 1914-18, the fact that Russia has all but declared itself an irridentist state has brought about this new feeling of uncertainty, as well as the vague perception that bets may be off concerning a stable world order.
Already, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has vaguely threatened a game change in the nuclear negotiations between Iran on the one hand and the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on the other. In Syria there could be new uncertainty about the dénouement of the joint Russian-American initiative to rid Syria of its chemical. weapons. On the political front in Syria, the Russians can be expected to be even less helpful than during the recent and abortive Geneva II Conference and might endorse the "reelection" of Bashar al-Assad in June, putting an end to a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
Now that Vladimir Putin has vociferously aired his grievances at the U.S. and the West, particularly the U.S., it is difficult to expect that the various instances of Russian-American cooperative endeavors will not be altered.