The Russian Federation continues to escalate tensions with NATO, as they finished holding their ZAPAD-2017 wargames along with their puppet state in Belarus. This follows a pattern of larger and more aggressive wargames conducted by Russia, and wargames such as these preceded the Russian invasions of both Georgia and Crimea.
Russia’s wargames are some of the largest since the fall of the USSR. And they are clearly attempting to deceive the west. Under the Vienna document, any wargames consisting of more than 13,000 soldiers must be open to foreign observation. Russia claims that its ZAPAD wargames fall under this threshold. Yet, more than 4000 railway cars have been chartered by the Russian defense ministry in preparation of this exercise, suggesting the number of soldiers possibly exceeded 100,000.
This new development is only the latest in the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Russia and NATO. In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia, a very aggressive move by Russia that alarmed the west. Similarly, in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, another alarming move that resulted in Ukraine drawing closer to the west. Russia and NATO currently oppose each other in the Syrian civil war, with NATO powers such as Turkey supporting the Syrian rebels, and Russia supporting the Assad regime. Not to mention, Russia has meddled in western elections, including the United States’ presidential election, and the French elections.
All of these pieces indicate that a new cold war between Russia and the West may be occurring. Every one of Putin’s moves in the last 10 years have served to escalate tension between Russia and NATO. New proxy wars between Russia and NATO are occuring - aforementioned Syria is one example, which is in itself a part of the Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy war, with Iran being backed by Russia and Saudi Arabia being backed by NATO. While Russia certainly is not the superpower it once was, it is still a very strong country, and can easily challenge the west.
Therefore, in this era of renewed tension between two mighty superpowers, the US must tread carefully. With hot button issues such as Syria and North Korea, this becomes even more important. America must be firm, but not belligerent, to avoid war.