Nato-Russia war games lead to Cold War 2.0

It cannot be denied that recent drills are adding to tensions in Europe.

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Published: Fri 14 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 15 Aug 2015, 10:03 AM

Military drills alone do not lead to war. But if a think-thank is to believed, Russia and Nato are closer to confrontation, a situation best avoided in Europe, which is already grappling with a humanitarian crisis from Africa and Syria.
War should have an objective - which is unclear at the moment - and the report's authors are silent on who will gain if all hell breaks lose.
Not Europe, which is battling crises on many fronts, including Greece's monetary troubles. Russia under President Vladimir Putin appears to be spoiling for a fight, but stands to lose in the end if he decides to flex his muscles further which could lead to a tear in society already reeling from Western sanctions.
Major state banks and corporations in the country are finding it difficult to do business with the outside world. Russian oligarchs, senior officials, Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine, and politicians have been blacklisted for their alleged role in destabilising Ukraine. Putin risks further world isolation if he goes to war with Nato. And does the 28-nation bloc really have the firepower to tame the Russian bear, which is acting like a bully?
According to the London-based European Leadership Network, "each side is training with the other side's capabilities and most likely war plans in mind." Nato is preparing for its largest exercise in a decade named Trident Juncture 2015 in Spain, Portugal and Italy. Russian observers have been invited.
The Kremlin plans to organise 4,000 exercises this year - which is more than ten times the number of drills planned by Nato - the military bloc which came into being to foil Soviet communism and 'expansionism' after World War II.
An Iron Curtain divided Europe after the second great war. The fall of communist regimes in the Soviet Union and East Europe in the eighties signalled a new openness in Europe, but the arrival of Putin changed all that. The often brash president has attempted to revive nationalism, and Moscow's role in Ukraine and Crimea have taken Nato-Russia ties to Cold War lows in 18 months.
It cannot be denied that recent drills are adding to tensions in Europe. A slight miscalculation could lead to conventional skirmishes, or even wider conflict. This will only jeopardise security on the continent when Moscow is keen to play peacemaker in the Middle East.
Both sides are posturing for conflict, but Putin being a pastmaster in rattling foes, could be bargaining for some concessions from sanctions that weigh heavily on his country.
Nato, whose sole purpose was the keep the Soviet Union at bay, did not disband even after the fall of the USSR. It now finds itself being called to mock action to keep the continent safe from Russian moves against the European Union.
This is not war, but it's clear that EU-Russia relations have gone into the freezer for Cold War 2.0.

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