On the 18th of March 2014, the Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. This action had been declared a violation of international law by Ukraine and NATO. As a response to this, Russia was suspended from the G8 and international sanctions were placed. Heated tensions between the US and Russia had never been so high since the Cold War. In August 2014, Russia also placed sanctions on the countries condemning it. 2015 didn’t go any better when Russia intervened in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the government of Bashar al-Assad. Russian President Vladimir Putin assures it is to fight ISIS. However, the US has accused Russia of fighting rebels opposed to Assad in the Free Syrian Army as well as committing war crimes, like bombing civilian envoys and hospitals. As the two countries are on opposite sides on the two conflicts, is it possible that we are in a Second Cold War?
After the Cold War, Russia-US tensions were ceased and the two cooperated with each other. However, tensions did not completely go away. Then Russian President Boris Yeltsin supported Yugoslavia in the Yugoslav Wars while the US supported the Bosniaks, Croats and Albanians in Kosovo. Even today, Russia had vetoed a resolution calling the Srebrenica massacre a genocide in favour of Serbia. Tensions also rose in 2008 during the Russo-Georgian War. The Bush administration blamed the Kremlin for the war although it was revealed later that Georgia was the one that started the war. Another piece of information to consider is that Putin is a former KGB agent. The details of his time in the KGB remain a mystery as he never disclosed it and all who know are silenced. It’s widely believed that Putin stole Western secrets and technology during his time though.
In 2016, Russia had been preparing themselves for nuclear war. On October the 4th, a large scale evacuation drill was called involving 40 million people. It lasted for four days and involved 200,000 emergency rescuers and 50,000 units of equipment across the whole nation. While a lot of countries run large-scale training exercises for emergency services, most of them rarely see the participation of over 1000 volunteers. Russia had also informed people on what to do in an event of a nuclear or chemical attack. Russia also began nuclear armament, including a new missile known as Satan 2 rumoured to be equipped with stealth technology to dodge enemy radar systems. It has not been disclosed the number of missiles Russia has recently produced but there is an estimate that the nuclear arsenal currently stands at around 7300 warheads. It is not just Russia who is preparing for war though. The United States had used the DEFCON system to show threats of a nuclear attack. In 2016, DEFCON 4 was increased to DEFCON 3. This is a preparation of war as DEFCON 5 is the least severe risk and DEFCON 1 is the most severe. DEFCON 3 means while there are no imminent nuclear threats, the situation is considered fluid so the air force should be prepared to mobilise in 15 minutes. It was reset to DEFCON 4 but as it was the level of when the 9/11 attacks happened, it is not reassuring.
In September 2015, Russia had been in a dispute with an ally of the United States; Turkey. Turkey is a member of NATO and a Turkish anti-aircraft missile had shot down a Russian fighter jet. While diplomatic friendship has been restored, it might be a cover-up of real tensions. Turkey is one of the more aggressive pro-rebel countries and Russia is pro-government in the Syrian Civil War. Nuclear weapons were also placed on the borders of Poland and Lithuania through the Kaliningrad Oblast, heightening tensions. Poland and Lithuania are both NATO members. Russia’s only allies in Europe appear to be Belarus and Serbia. However, Serbia is in the process of joining the European Union, another ally of the United States. Russia has also gained closer ties to China, due to their agreement on opposing US domination.
In spite of all this however, it is also possible that there is no new Cold War going on. President of the United States Donald Trump has been accused of a pro-Russian stance, showing that a Cold War might not occur again. Others also defend Russia’s actions in their country as a means of self-defence from what they perceive as a threat to their sovereignty. Some also say that there are more dangerous countries out there like China and North Korea, the latter of which Russia has condemned for their nuclear tests in 2016. However, one cannot rule out the possibility of a new Cold War. At the end of the day, one has to ask “what the hell is going on in the international politics”.