The Cold War is one of those periods of history where, for the first time, humanity could have obliterated itself completely. On one side were the Western allies, ideologically behind capitalism and democracy, while on the other side was the Soviet Bloc, whose ideology was a mutilated version of Communism and dictatorship. During this time the world was on edge, with just one wrong move likely to see both nations launching their nuclear arsenals.
The Modern Warfare series takes part after the fall of the USSR but follows an alternate timeline where the Russian government didn’t fully recover. Instead, a civil war between Loyalists and Ultranationalists breaks out, both vying for control of the broken nation. The Loyalists wish to move forward while the Ultra Nationalists wanted to bring back the ways of the Soviet era. The main story of the trilogy deals with how the heroes, from our perspective anyway, deal with the threats coming from the East, but what was behind the motivation of the villains?
Imran Zakhaev was the one responsible for all that occurred in the first Modern Warfare title. He had survived an assassination attempt by the British government 15 years prior, when it was discovered he was trying to sell uranium on the black market. This attempt on his life no doubt added more fuel to a fire of hatred Zakhaev already harboured against the West. After surviving this attack, the legitimacy of Zakhaev’s Ultranationalist group in Russia was solidified, as he could use the attempt on his life to show the way Western powers ignored the rule of law to play dirty and have him eradicated without trial.
Couple this with the sentiment that Russia was a better place when it was the USSR, among some segments of society, and Zakhaev’s rise to power was easy. Zakhaev’s own hatred of the West stems from watching them dictate terms to Russia, ironic considering they were allegedly fighting Russia because of its dicatorship style ruling system. Zakhaev feels Russia has lost its influence in the world and he wants to restore it.
However his own quest to run Russia as the head of the Ultranationalist group is cut short by the interference of Captain Price and Soap, who manage to kill Zakhaev. But even though he dies, Zakhaev manages to secure the long term victory of having his faction gain control of Russia, though splits start to appear due to the loss of their leader.
Enter Vladmir Makarov and Russian President Boris Vorshevsky, the leaders of the two factions with the Ultranationalist camp. Vorshevsky is the more restrained leader who wants to end the war with the USA, where Makarov is a student who follows Zakhaev’s teachings of wanting the West to fall completely.
Where Zakhaev held some restraint in operations, Makarov held none. For him, anything is justified to take down the West, whom he blames for having to leave the Russian Armed Forces in the early 90s due to incidents in Chechnya. This hatred also manifests against the new Russia who he believes betrayed him. Makarov doesn’t really care about running everything as long as he is ruining everything for his enemies.
When Vorshevsky decides to broker a peace agreement with the West, Makarov is seeing his own work being undone. After all, the terrorist attacks and the Russian invasion of the USA were all down to Makarov. He feels that his version of Russia is so close to becoming a reality, wiping away those he feel betrayed him initially and destroying the United States and its allies in the process. Total victory is what Makarov desires, and a peace agreement is a blockade to that goal.
Makarov kidnaps Vorshevsky and his daughter to stop peace being made. Makarov needs the war to come to his conclusion or he will deem himself a failure. The all or nothing approach is all he has, but the ground he leaves himself to hide in shrinks with every action he takes. First he made enemies with the West, then enemies within the Ultranationalist party during the split caused by Zakhaev’s death. Then he made enemies with the Russian government by kidnapping the President. Makarov has nowhere to hide, so he needs his enemies destroyed.
Of course Price appears with his own lust for revenge against Makarov, after losing Soap because of the war. Price is as broken a man as Makarov is bloodthirsty, so he doesn’t care about anything that gets in his way to kill Makarov. Price succeeds in killing Makarov in a way that is as brutal as the man who dies, hanging from the roof of a hotel after being beaten. At the time of his death, Makarov had become a man who could no longer have any real affect on global events, relegated to a man with very few loyalists left.
The Modern Warfare series gives us a vision of the world where the Cold War never truly ended, instead bringing in World War III. However it also showed that international politics has no real good and bad side, just sides vying for power. In the end Zakhaev’s goal came to life with an Ultranationalist party running Russia, while the West won by neutralising the more extreme elements of the party. Both sides could claim ‘victory’ for their people despite the huge loss of life.