The Cold War II

by Colin Pummel

From 1945 to the late 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a global conflict that became the Cold War. This period saw huge advancements in technology, and was in part responsible for the massive cultural change that occurred in response to such innovations as the Internet, as well as providing a setting for some of the most iconic films and music of the twentieth century (e.g.-James Bond, classic rock). However romanticized, this period also had many negative aspects, including the development of thermonuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (or ICBMs) that could wipe out entire cities and nations within minutes, widespread paranoia across both the United States and the Soviet Union, and proxy wars fought all over the world.

Before the development of ICBMs, one of the most significant “battlefields” of the Cold War was the international seas, as submarines were at that time the primary platform for the rapid delivery of nuclear weapons. Due to the liquid nature of this battlefield, both the United States and the Soviet Union began producing large numbers of submarines for both carrying nuclear weapons and hunting enemy submarines, as can be seen in such fictional dramatized accounts as The Hunt for the Red October. In addition to these traditional military tactics, both nations began pursuing somewhat more unorthodox military options, including the training of marine mammals for tactical operations.[1]

In the late 1980s, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and then even in Russia, greatly lessening tensions. From that point forward, relations between the remaining superpower and the former superpower became comparably amicable until the early 2010s, when Russia once again began making overtures to once again become a significant international player.

To that end, the modern incarnation of Russia has restarted some of the old Cold War-era programs. As in Soviet times, the Russian Air Force has resumed regularly challenges the air space and air defense reactions of it neighbors. A new Russian initiative to increase its submarine presence in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, a move that some postulate is intended to intimidate the Western powers that be, causing an increase in international tensions that had been greatly reduced since the end of the Cold War.[2] While seemingly ridiculous, the former communist power has also once again begun training marine mammals, particularly dolphins, for reconnaissance porpoises… err, purposes.[3]

These diverse moves in naval and air policy serve to reflect a broader image of Russian foreign relations, particularly with respect to the United States as the sole post-Cold War superpower. This larger picture is especially visible in Russian movements in the Middle East, a region that has largely been under American influence since the end of the Cold War. This renewed interventionist foreign policy in nations like Syria, while no longer targeting Western ideals of capitalism and democracy, directly challenges the United States’ authority in that region and more broadly in its self-proclaimed role of international peacekeeper.[4]

Numerous isolated events and maneuvers on Russia’s are painting this picture of a move back to Cold War policies. For the moment, however, international relations appear to be evenly stalemated. Nevertheless, an imminent and potentially dramatic shift in American political power threatens this semi-precarious diplomatic status. Only the future will tell whether or not a second Cold War is looming on the horizon.

[1] “Russia Looks To Buy Five Dolphins,” The Guardian, 2016.

[2] Eric Schmitt, “Russia Bolsters Its Submarine Fleet, and Tensions With U.S. Rise,” The New York Times, 2016.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The New Game: American Dominance Is Being Challenged,” The Economist 417, no. 8960 (2015): 15-20.

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