Intro to Cold War 2.0

In this series of articles, we will go through the possibility of seeing a Cold War 2.0 erupt between Russia and NATO due to current geopolitical situations. In the next article, we will study NATO’s intentions towards Russia and the establishment of a bigger permanent force in Eastern Europe.


Are we witnessing the start of the Cold War 2.0? There is a good chance that we are. However, it is most likely a Very Cold War. Nevertheless, this Very Cold War might become warmer pretty quickly.

In fact, NATO and Russia have played cat and mouse with military drills near each other’s borders. With the current Russian military drills everywhere in Russia and NATO exercises in Estonia, we can assume that both are flexing their muscles.

Canadian soldiers taking part in Operation Reassurance in Poland
Canadian soldiers taking part in Operation Reassurance in Poland

Russian – American communications are quickly becoming scarce and both government are working against each other. Since the United States is the most influential member of NATO, their opinion will normally be the direction NATO will take. Hence why NATO has been pretty active lately in Eastern Europe.

Russia is also turning towards Asia for new partners due to the Western sanctions imposed on different individuals close to President Putin. North Korea, Iran, China and India are today’s most important partners for both the Russian armament and the gas industry.

Nobody thought geopolitics issues with Russia would come back so quickly. As a matter of fact, since Vladimir Putin was first elected back in 2000, his intentions was to regain the influence the Soviet Union had. To do so, he knew he would need a major military modernization and a buffer zone between Russia and the NATO countries. Russia’s definition of a buffer zone is having satellite states between the motherland and NATO countries.

Hence why he invaded South Ossetia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. With Belarus as an ally, he also has access to the Kalinigrad Oblast by land. However, Russia would benefit from having the Baltic States under the Russian flag.

Russian tanks in South Ossetia
Russian tanks in South Ossetia

Nevertheless, since the  Baltic States countries are NATO allies, it is a much more complex situation due to the possibility of calling in an article 5 against an outside invasion.

With the Baltic States countries who are now part of NATO, the allied countries’ soldiers have access to ”training grounds” close to the Russian border. On the other side, Russia have been really active in neighbour countries such as Ukraine and Georgia.

Thousands of NATO troops are now back in Eastern Europe to conduct multinational trainings, mostly based on the possibility of a Russian invasion of one of the allied countries. Hundreds of sorties are made by NATO fighter aircrafts to intercept Russian strategic bombers and warships are doing naval drills in the Black Sea, close to the Sevastopol naval port.

Norway conducted the biggest Arctic military exercises since the 1960s and are now refocusing their military doctrines on the possible Russian invasion. Meanwhile, Russia has responded to this exercises by putting the Northern Fleet on high alert for snap drills.

Norwegian military getting ready to Arctic training during Ex Cold Response 2009
Norwegian military getting ready to Arctic training during Ex Cold Response 2009

NATO troops are also starting to train Ukrainian soldiers so they can fight the asymmetric war now waged in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. During the first Cold War, Russia was mostly conducting proxy wars against NATO and their allies countries. Nowadays, Russia has done the same in Ukraine.

President Putin did confirm that Russian soldiers were ordered to join the major military occupation of Crimea, resulting in its annexation a few days later. Basically, Russian soldiers were on the front line during the annexation process exercising heavy influence on the outcome of the referendum.

This is an invasion of a foreign country regardless of how President Putin called it.

Current Russian military snap drills are designed to test the readiness of the Russian Armed Forces. In fact, these snap drills are established to confirm that the Russian Armed Forces are ready to be deployed—whether it is for defensive or offensive operations.

Russian VDV in the Arctic
Russian VDV conducting snap drills in the Arctic

These drills will most likely move certain units around. For example, Russia’s Defence Ministry has confirmed that strategic bombers such as the Tu-95 and Tu-22m3 will be stationed in Crimea after the snap drills. The Iksander missiles deployed to Kalinigrad will most likely be stationed there aswell—giving the possibility for Russia to quickly launch missiles against NATO countries.

Russia is also considering moving more troops on the borders shared by NATO countries—mostly the Baltic States. Adding to that, Russia has created an Arctic command to establish a stronger foothold in the region.

Concurrently, NATO countries have conducted more multinational Arctic training in Norway, Canada and in Alaska to counter possible Russian invasion through the North.

It is still too early to officially call this Cold War 2.0, however. Nonetheless, the military confrontations—through drills and manoeuvres—is a clear sign of both countries preoccupation towards the massing of troops on shared borders.

The possibility of a confrontation between Russian and NATO troops in the near future is very low. However, geopolitics will most likely become the battlefield hence calling this situation the Cold War 2.0.

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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.