The cold war brings back vivid memories for the generation of my father. It all finished a long time ago, along with the collapse of the Soviet Union. When you type into Google: Cold war end. It says: 1991. But did it really finish than?
The cold war is typically defined as happening from 1947 till 1991. It was the big divide between east and west. For the first time in human history there was a divide because of economic principals, not religion. Daily life was forever changed and international tension gripped the western world. The cold war created a lot of tension, including the following events: the Marshall plan, the Korean war, the Cuban missile crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and to a lesser degree the space exploration race and the reunification of Germany.
The strong east started crumbling in 1989 when the Berlin wall fell. The iron curtain was showing a glimpse of the western world to the east and made it much less inaccessible. The USA and the Soviet Union were showing signs of approach. In 1990 one of the most famous companies to establish a bond between the east and west was McDonald’s. Soon more international companies followed. With the new president Clinton in 1993 relations also improved heavily, partly because of the personal friendship that developed between Clinton and Yeltsin.
These are just two examples on how, during/after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the relation between Russia and the USA improved. This relation was very volatile, as it was very dependent on the acting presidents of both countries. When Yeltsin resigned on the 31st of December 1999 (2) Russia got a new leader: Vladimir Putin. As with any new guy in office, the USA had to wait and see time run its course.
Vladimir Putin may seem like a very different president than his predecessor, however both show a lot of similarities as well. Both are strong man and want to show an image in this fashion. This is apparent in their view on the Chechnya problem. Under Yeltsin the war in Chechnya was fought to restore the constitutional order (3), but ended with the signing of a peace treaty in 1996. Under Putin the war was suddenly a counter terrorist operation. Both wars were very bloody and highly criticised by the international community, however the new President tried a different approach in its view of operation. The intention for improvement looked to be there, however this was only short lived. Putin’s international policy became more bold with the years and more wars followed, for example: the Russia-Georgia war of 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the possible* involvement of Russia in eastern Ukraine.
As with the development of the most recent activities in Ukraine Russia has had many countries turn against Russia. A number of sanctions have been imposed by the EU (4), Australia (5), the USA (6) and many more countries. There have been three rounds of sanctions against Russia, becoming more severe with each round. These sanctions are a reaction on Russia`s foreign policy and the distrust of Russia`s actual involvement in eastern Ukraine. Most sanctions against Russia have been met with similar sanctions against the respective countries imposing them.
Has a new cold war started? There are definitely some similarities, like the isolation Russia seems to be heading towards and the ever tightening grip on media. However 2014 is very different from 1991 and before. The majority of people have access to internet and in general the world economy has become much more global. As people only had the state media as a direct source of information, today there are many sources on the internet which produce uncensored news. With the sanctions having a great economic impact, Russia seems to respond with cutting off gas supplies (7) and similar policies. There have not been mayor threats of war and international community and Russia seem to be looking at avoiding any direct military contact. So to conclude: I do not think there is a new cold war possible, considering this modern day and age.
*There is still no direct/clear proof of the Russian governments direct involvement in eastern Ukraine.
2. Yeltsin: A Life,Timothy J. Colton, 2011, page 437
3. A Dirty War, Anna Politkovskaya, 1999, page 1 (preface written by John Crowfoot in 2001)