The Cold War was an ideological battle between two fundamentally different economic systems competing with each other for global dominance. The United States and its NATO allies in the West were up against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies in the East. These two sides fought continuous proxy wars against each other all over Africa, Latin America and Asia. They had huge arsenals of ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons arrayed against each other in Central Europe, and these backed up by massively powerful strategy nuclear missiles on submarines, ICBMs and planes – all aimed at each other and ready to fire at a moment’s notice.
That the world as we know it did end during the Cold War is nothing short of a miracle. We came within minutes of nuclear annihilation at least 13 times during the Cold War. The most well-known of these was the Cuban Missile Crisis, when a stand-off between US President Kennedy and USSR President Krushchev nearly led to nuclear war. This was only averted through backroom diplomacy that enabled both sides to save face and avoid the final confrontation.
The Cold War conclusively ended in 1991 with the ending of Soviet communism, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the the Warsaw Pact. Even a ‘cold’ war needs two sides, and after 1991, there was only one ‘side’. NATO should have been disbanded at that point and all nuclear weapons eliminated. Instead, NATO continued to expand eastward, taking in not only former Warsaw Pact countries but parts of the former Soviet Union as well. The United States and Russia eliminated their smallest ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons and their most massive ‘strategic’ nuclear weapons, while holding on to the most accurate – and arguably the most dangerous – of their nuclear weapons.
We now have a situation which some are calling a ‘new cold war’ with Russia. Russia, now a considerably smaller and less powerful country than the Soviet Union, is now surrounded by the much powerful military forces of NATO, which they perceive to be arrayed against them in a fairly aggressive posture. In response, Russia has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal and to blocking attempts to ‘reconcile’ with what it sees as a hostile alliance. This is a highly dangerous and volatile situation that could easily threaten the entire world were it to escalate to war.
There is no need for this level of hostility towards Russia. This is no longer an ideological battle between two fundamentally different economic systems competing with each other for global dominance. There is nothing more and nothing less than petty national rivalries driving this conflict, and there is too much at stake to let this get out of hand. Responsible diplomacy and statesmanship is needed to deal with concerns and differences between countries, not threats to end all life on earth through nuclear war.