Ukraine’s Fight for Democracy and a new Limited Cold War

Nov 2, 2022 | DTJ Online


Objectives: Analysis of geopolitical changes in the world resulting from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in 2022.

Methods: The research methods include the analysis of reports and documentation and the current political and military situation.

Results: The article answers four research questions: 1) To what extent does Ukraine represent a pivotal point in a limited Cold War with Russia countering the expansion of democracy? 2) What is the future of Ukraine and what issues remained to be resolved? 3) What are the differences between the Cold War of 1947-91 and today’s limited Cold War? 4) Why did the West not want to believe that Russia would attack Ukraine? Three reasons are articulated: the West was blinded by the vision of “pursuing peace through trade” (especially in the field of energy).

Conclusions: Ukraine’s valiant struggle to save its democracy from Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion is the pivotal point of our time. As countries and companies seek to return to or maintain relations with Russia despite the brutal war that has disrupted the world order, it remains to be seen how long democratic nations will be able to maintain their unity. On one side are the democratic nations of the West, the Pacific and NATO, and on the other are autocratic Russia, China, and their allies. This is a renewed but limited Cold War that will dominate nations for decades to come.

Acknowledgements: My deep gratitude to Captain Martin Kelly USAF Aux., Ellen Stanton, Dr. Thomas Keefe, Dr. Barbara Adams, CDR Stephen Thiel USN Ret., LtCol Steven Walsworth USAF Ret., LtCol Robert Chaloux Canadian Army Ret., and Miller Hudson for their many thoughtful insights and reviews.



President Vladimir Putin bet that he could quickly take all of Ukraine and in February 2022, Russian troops headed straight for Kyiv in an attempt to decapitate the fledgling democracy. But he badly miscalculated: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians’ fierce resilience pushed the Russian army back from the gates of Kyiv and Kharkiv, and the invasion rapidly united Europe, the US, NATO, and democratic nations across the world.

Putin is an unpredictable and dangerous disruptor. He has been emboldened by the full backing of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi as both China and Russia strengthen their authoritarian regimes and cooperate on trade and arms to exploit a perceived lack of strength and unity among the world’s democracies. As in the Cold War, the world is becoming divided again as nations align into two camps and a neutral group of developing countries. The new Limited Cold War enemy is Vladimir Putin (and China); many citizens of Russia have bravely protested the war and have been persecuted.

Looking back since the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea, Putin has moved steadily toward an invasion of Ukraine to snuff-out a strengthening democratic state. Putin wanted to demonstrate that Russia was back as a competitive global force with nuclear capabilities. To the last minute, many in Europe and the US clung to the hope that diplomacy could prevail in Ukraine and that peace would be maintained by the many gas, oil, trade, and political relations built up over decades. Putin exploited this and went through the charade of meeting with western leaders at his long table while preparing his forces for the inevitable invasion.

Forcing Ukraine back into the Russian orbit was so important to Putin that he was willing to disrupt global order and gamble away those relationships. He believed that Ukraine, NATO, and the West were weak and not united. Conversely, his invasion mobilized the West to send billions in aid to Ukraine, station tens of thousands more troops on NATO’s eastern flank, place 300,000 troops on high alert in the Rapid Reaction Force, and motivate Sweden and Finland to join the alliance.

The Ukraine War might evolve into something the aftermath of the Korean War in which military lines stabilized, a ceasefire was established without a peace treaty, and an impasse has lingered for 70 years.

This paper covers four themes:

  1. How Ukraine is a turning point in a Limited Cold War with Russia countering the expansion of democracies 30
  2. Thoughts about Ukraine’s future and questions that remain
  3. Some history and the differences between the 1947-91 Cold War and today’s Limited Cold War
  4. Why the West refused to believe that Russia would invade Ukraine because it was blinded by a vision of ‘towards peace through trade’ (especially in energy) and political ties built since the fall of the USSR; and that many western countries and companies insist on continuing to trade with Russia.


1. Ukraine is a turning point in a Limited Cold War with Russia countering the expansion of democracies

Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states, and others remember the oppressions of the Soviet past and have fiercely defended their democratic freedoms; Putin’s invasion of Ukraine brings back horrific memories of WWII and reopens old wounds and passions of the Cold War. It forebodes long-term struggles between democratic countries and autocracies and is resetting economic and trade relationships as we enter a new global era.

After decades of United Nations and rule of law efforts to maintain existing sovereign boundaries, Russia’s participation in the G-8, increased trade, and thousands of western business deals with Russian firms, Putin has completely disrupted the world order by savagely invading Ukraine and plunging the world back into armed confrontation.

The Ukraine War is a turning point and the directions in which it develops will have long-term democratic, political, economic, and military ramifications. The Ukrainians’ valiant stand against an overwhelming military onslaught is the pivotal example in our lifetimes about the fight for democracy against autocracy.

The Ukraine War is going to be a long slog-one which will constantly challenge western economies and perhaps contribute to power shifts in some governments-including the U.S. due to gasoline prices and inflation. I believe the West is settling into a new normal: the economies of the US, Canada, and Europe are being stressed and many Europeans want Ukraine to make peace with the Russians and ensure the return flow of cheap natural gas for the upcoming winter. Developing nations desperately need Ukraine’s grain which is immobilized due to Russia’s blockade on the Black Sea and due to rail track gauge incompatibilities on land.

The US and Europe may only be able to do so much as Russia and China are collaborating in a strengthened alliance and both hold seats on the UN Security Council with veto authority. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has shocked NATO and Western democracies into 31 united action. A bi-polar world order is returning with developing nations trying to remain neutral and non-aligned. Sadly, Ukraine will permanently loose land to Putin, and he may militarily reassert Russian dominance over bordering nations like Moldova, Transnistria, or possibly the Baltic states.


2. What is a Limited Cold War?

We are now embarking into long-term confrontations between NATO/Western/Asian democratic partners and the Russia/China alliance. The Ukraine War has plunged us into a renewed Military and Economic Limited Cold War which is creating and straining alliance commitments not only in Europe, but around the world. The Ukraine struggle is also a fight over democracy in Eastern Europe which the Soviets subjugated during the 1940s through 1948.

The Cold War dominated national security and industrial priorities from 1947-91 and involved massive superpower and allies’ land, air, space, and sea military operations carried out in the around the world. However, now in the Limited Cold War the US, Russia, and China are backing sides in country-specific military conflicts and economic developments. Examples of this are evident in Ukraine, Taiwan, Venezuela, and many countries of Africa.

Today, the US and Russia have many fewer nuclear weapons than during the Cold War and so far, Russia has refrained from the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Putin has directed a great percentage of Russia’s wealth toward expansion and improvement of the Russian military including hypersonic weapons, aviation, intelligence, surveillance, nuclear advances, and advanced submarine co-development with China.

Increased economic competition has developed between the US and China, with Russia’s actions influencing energy markets, inflation, and interest rates. Today’s Limited Cold War power competition is more economically oriented than during the Cold War, which was centered on superpower military and nuclear confrontation.

In 2016, China created the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) challenging the US-led World Bank and the Japanese-led Asian Development Bank. 105 countries have joined the AIIB including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Russia, and South Korea. China has funded and constructed Belt and Road Initiative projects around the world.

To compete, the democratic countries of the G-7 announced in June the $200 billion Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) to leverage and mobilize $600 billion by 2027 in global infrastructure investments (White House, 2022).


3. Russia is NATO’s main threat

On June 29, 2022 UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stated “Russia is very, very dangerous now on the world stage. The world is less secure than it was two or three years ago and that is not looking likely to change for the next decade.” (Schofield, 2022)

At the June NATO summit, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared that Putin’s Russia is “NATO’s most significant and direct threat.”

“We meet in the midst of the most serious security crisis we have faced since the Second World War…This will be a historic and transformative summit where we will make decisions that will actually change this alliance for many years to come.”

President Joe Biden noted that NATO had drafted a new mission statement focusing on Russia, mentioning China, and that Europe has substantially increased its commitments. He emphasized that “We are sending an unmistakable message that NATO is strong, united. In our meetings today we are going to approve a new NATO strategic concept and reaffirm the unity of determination of our alliance to defend every inch of NATO territory…We (the alliance) are going to stick with Ukraine for as long as it takes…” (McIntyre, 2022).

The President’s explicit statement about defending every inch of territory is a new crystal-clear signal to Putin that NATO will not tolerate another Ukraine-like intervention in former Soviet territory.

The President announced that the US Army V Corps would be established at a permanent base (important because it is a permanent base with a US general and staff established) in Poland to “strengthen the US-NATO interoperability across the entire eastern flank,” along with sending a Brigade Combat Team to Romania, and increased deployments of troops,
ships, and planes to NATO.

Putin recently stated that “The leading NATO members are using the Ukrainian people to reinforce their positions and their role in the world, reaffirm their hegemony and their imperial ambitions.” (AP, 2022).

I want to emphasize the absolutely vital importance of Poland to Ukraine’s defense and NATO. Poland has 38 million citizens and has been the key bulwark for the war in Ukraine. The Polish people have been magnanimous in opening their borders, homes, and schools to more than 1.2 million refugees from Ukraine. Poland has been a key leader in supporting Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion and was recently chosen for the new US Army V Corps headquarters, is the key staging area for major economic and military aid to Ukraine, and will be of critical importance as a hub for many years in this new Limited Cold War. When the history is written about this new era of Limited Cold War, Poland will stand-out.

The UN estimates that out of a country of 43 million, upwards of 12 million Ukrainians have fled their homes including 2/3 of all children. About five million have left the country and over seven million are internally displaced still within Ukraine. Poland has been extremely generous in accepting over half of the refugees and Romania has taken upwards of 1 million. Moldova, Slovakia, and Hungary have opened their borders to about ½ million each. Russia has forcibly moved over a million Ukrainians into its Federation (BBC News (2022).


4. Putin’s Total War

Putin never mentions his total war invasion of Ukraine; he uses KGB/FSB talk about conducting “a special military operation in the territories of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine.”

Putin is still KGB; he is shrewd, ruthless, and has struck-out and killed many enemies: 2003-13 oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky imprisoned; 2006 FSB poisoned Alexander Litvinenko with Polonium-210; 2015; Boris Nemtsov shot near Kremlin; 2018 in the United Kingdom Sergei & Yulia Skripal poisoned with Novichok nerve agent; 2020 opposition politician Alekei Navalny poisoned with Novichok and in 2021 arrested and sent to IK-2 penal colony; and in April 2022 journalist Nobel Peace Prize awardee Dmitry Muratov was attacked with acid.

In 2022 Putin used terror in the Ukraine War. He sent Spetsnaz commandos in civilian clothes into Kyiv to decapitate the elected Ukrainian leadership. Russians have executed hundreds in Bucha and other occupied cities; Ukrainian mayors and civilians were executed with their hands tied and tens of thousands of civilians have been deported to Russia. Putin has committed war crimes and his soldiers have committed rapes, abused civilians, and fired on refugees in a Mariupol theater.

The Russian military uses massed artillery shelling and missile strikes on cities to create terror or win territory. It is difficult to believe we are living in the 21st century when we see these scenes reminiscent of past world wars. It also demonstrated how degraded the Russian Army has become when compared to the high state of readiness of the Soviet Army days during the Cold War.

On June 26, 2022 Russia indiscriminately fired anti-ship missiles with 2200 lb. warheads into Kremenchuk on the Dnipro River in central Ukraine hitting a shopping center and killing 20, sending a signal just before the G-7 meeting in Germany. This illustrated Russia’s brutal tactics of targeting civilian centers with massed artillery and missile strikes to terrorize and destroy population centers. These tactics against civilian targets bring us back to the horrors of WWII. Illustrating its depravity, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed the Kremenchuk shopping mall fire was caused by “detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons.”

G-7 leaders stated “Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account” and condemned the Kremenchuk attack as “a war crime.” This tragedy illustrates that Putin is waging a total war to regain his coveted Russian sphere of influence and that the US, Europe, and NATO will be engaged for many years in a renewed Limited Cold War which will occur on the military, political, economic, and social levels.

After the end of the NATO summit, on the night of June 30th Russian bombers over the Black Sea launched anti-ship missiles into an apartment complex and recreation center in Odesa killing over 20 (Grove, 2022).

NATO is ratcheting up its response capabilities by stationing brigade-size units in frontline counties bordering Russia. If Russia thought the invasion of Ukraine would cower the Europeans, it has done the exact opposite increasing defense spending and cooperation. NATO has offered air defense systems, massive amounts of ammunition, artillery shells, antitank and anti-air missiles, tanks, howitzers, and helicopters sourced from Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, UK, Canada, Germany, and other countries.

Congress approved $40 billion in Ukraine assistance and the US has sent close to $5 billion in armaments so far, including 155mm long-range artillery, hundreds of thousands artillery shells, high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), air defense, anti-ship missiles, drones, counter-artillery radar, jamming equipment; and armored personnel carriers from the Ohio, West Virginia, and other National Guard units.


5. Thoughts about Ukraine’s future and questions that remain

It is up to President Zelensky and Ukraine on how to conduct the war and when to make peace; NATO and the West have committed to giving them continued military and economic assistance. Ukraine may need to make peace soon given their probable need to pause, rebuild the army, and build an in-depth ‘Eastern Wall’ air defense/maneuver zone so they can hold their lines. They also need to start rebuilding shattered civilian infrastructure and help aid the seven million internally displaced persons and refugees.

Ukraine needs force multipliers to permanently hold off vastly larger Russian forces: especially air defense, anti-air anti-tank anti-ship missiles, drones, satellites; intelligence, surveillance, and other reconnaissance assets.

Will the war spill over into Moldova, Lithuania, or another country? Will insurgencies and partisan fighting erupt in Russian-occupied areas?

Ukraine may not be able to join NATO, but perhaps they could have associate Partnership For Peace (PFP) status which would help them coordinate better with neighboring countries, especially Poland and Baltic states.

Could a ceasefire be established before winter? Will Putin stop after consolidating gains in the Donbas region and southeastern Ukraine or will he accept a cease-fire pause only to reset for future attacks? I think Ukraine could develop into a Korean War-like situation; military lines stabilized with a ceasefire, but no peace agreement and impasse which could linger for decades.

Western sanctions have now caused Russia to default on its international loans for the first time in 100 years (Selyukh, 2022).

Defending the Odesa region and access to the Black Sea is critical for Ukraine’s trade, especially its grain exports. Putin seems committed to making Ukraine a landlocked state and having the entire Black Sea as a “Russian lake.” However, on June 30th Russian forces fled Snake Island under heavy Ukrainian missile fire; this then remains an opportunity for Ukraine to maintain some control of this area.

In an ideal world, the UN would broker a cease-fire, broker agreements for Ukrainian grain exports to feed the world, and oversee peace talks. However, Russia and China are on the Security Council and might use their veto power to stifle such efforts.

During his 2014 annexation of Crimea, Putin learned to withstand Western economic and diplomatic sanctions and he was emboldened by Western disunity including German desire for cheap natural gas to attempt to take Ukraine. The world’s dilemma is when you have a brutal leader like Putin who has nuclear weapons, how do you stop them? It takes two parties who are interested in negotiating peace and what if only one is interested? Putin is unpredictable and dangerous and his actions and threats, along with those of his friend Chairman Xi and a power-flexing China are driving the world into two camps in a Limited Cold War.

What have we done to keep China from helping Russia in Ukraine? The US and democracies did successfully advocate to keep China from directly supplying armaments, but China (India and others) are signing long-term energy contracts which provide the ‘blood money’ for Putin’s war on Ukraine.

How long will Putin and his cronies dominate Russia and what would Russia be like post-Putin?

How do democracies with leaders who have to be reelected every few years maintain the long-term solidarity to face autocracies like Russia and China? Democracies may provide funding, but don’t want their soldiers directly involved in armed conflicts.

For the sake of saving Ukraine, how long will democracies put up with the consequences of helping; will Europeans and Americans react after increased energy bills and inflation to throw out those leaders supporting Ukraine in its defense.

Will the US, Europe, and NATO be able to remain united and sustain the strong support for Ukraine in the long term for the massive funding needed for economic assistance and military assistance, infrastructure reconstruction, and refugee assistance?

Fig. 1. Map of Poland signed by Stalin & Ribbentrop adjusting the German-Soviet border Source: Unknown author (1939), Map of Poland signed by Stalin & Ribbentrop adjusting the German-Soviet border, (Map Photograph, Public domain, The Nuremburg Trials 1946). Stalin signed just above Lemberg (Lviv) in 1939.

Some Relevant History There is bitter history between Poles, the Baltic peoples, most Ukrainians, and the Russians. Stalin and the Soviets killed and deported millions of Ukrainians during the 1932-33 Terror-Famine and the dictator secretly signed the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which continues to affect Eastern Europe and the Baltics to the present day.

Soon after the Pact, the Soviet Army, NKVD secret police, and communist commissars rolled into Poland, captured thousands of Polish officers and intelligentsia, and deported hundreds of thousands to Russian prisons. In 1940 over 22,000 Polish officers and leaders were executed by the Soviets in the Katyn Forest.

Fig. 2. Polish Home Army General Leopold Okulicki Source: Unknown author (1945), General Okulicki on trial (Photograph, Public domain), Retrieved from Institute of National Remembrance Archive

Some of the first casualties of the impending Cold War were the 1945 show trials which condemned many Polish Home Army democratic heroes like General Okulicki. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has opened old wounds from the cruel excesses of Soviet times and ignited passions from the past. NATO is not just expanding a military alliance, but is also protecting the return of democracy to countries which between 1940-48 had been subjugated by the Soviet Red Army, NKVD, and political commissars. During these times democratic leaders were targeted, imprisoned, and often executed.

Fig. 3. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg Source: Unknown author (1945), Senator Arthur Vandenberg (Photograph), Retrieved from U.S. Senate Historical Office, U.S. Senate: Arthur H. Vandenberg (R-MI)

We need more bipartisan leaders like Republican Senator Vandenberg, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who in 1947 supported Democratic President Truman in containing communism by asserting that “We must stop partisan politics at the water’s edge.”

How things have changed; in April 2022 ten American congressmen actually voted against aid to Ukraine while the Russians were brutally escalating the war. In July, eighteen House Republicans objected to a measure to give United States support for Sweden and Finland to join NATO.

The valiant Ukrainian defense flashes us back 66 years to October 1956 when tens of thousands of Hungarians rose-up against Soviet rule and were brutally overwhelmed by tanks, troops, and secret police. Throughout the Cold War East Germans, Poles, Czechs, and Chinese citizens revolted against communism.

During the 1980s, Putin was a young KGB officer in Dresden who was shocked how fast East Germany and the Soviet buffer states in the Warsaw Pact rose-up. He is now driven to reconstruct the Russian sphere of influence and we are now witnessing his use of total war to subjugate nations into his orbit. Putin continues his harsh pattern opposing the expansion of democracies and NATO as well as aggressively threatening his border countries.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in 1994 Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances and gave up its nuclear weapons. –A question must be asked: Would Russia have invaded Ukraine if it still had its nuclear weapons?

In 2007 A Russian submarine planted a flag on the North Pole ocean floor to stake a claim; Russia resumed air patrols over the Arctic Ocean and over the years began construction of a naval facility and air defense radar on Wrangel Island which is 300 miles from Alaska. Russia placed flag on Wrangel Island In early 2022 during the Ukraine War. (CSIS, 2019)

At the Munich Security Conference in March 2007, President Putin asserted that “NATO expansion represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution (1991) of the Warsaw Pact?” (Carpenter, 2022).

Putin was referring to various US and allies’ assurances not to expand NATO eastward after the dissolution of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. In the early 1990s Secretary of State Baker and NATO leaders had stated that they did not seek to move NATO eastward. Recently Putin complained that the West had “swindled, blatantly cheated” Russia by those pledges.

Former Soviet satellites were committed to distancing themselves from Russia and cementing their relations with the West. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary joined US coalition to liberate Kuwait in 1991 and in 1999 they acceded to NATO membership. Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia & Slovenia were admitted to NATO in 2004 and were followed in 2009 by Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Albania.

All of these losses weighed on Putin who was determined to bolster what was left of the Soviet orbit. He was aided by Viktor Yanukovych who was Prime Minister in 2006, became President of Ukraine in 2010, and bolstered ties with Russia. In 2008 Russia invaded and recognized the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In 2012 Putin refused to extend the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline opened with former SPD German Chancellor Schröder joining its board of directors within weeks of leaving office. Putin also invited Herr Schröder to serve on the boards of directors of Rosneft (Russia’s third largest company), Gazprom (Russia’s largest company), and Nord Stream 2. Schröder has now been forced to resign in

Fig. 4. Euromaidan protests Source: Photo by Chernov, Mstyslav (2013), Euromaidan protests (Photograph). Retrieved from File:Euromaidan 2013 Mstyslav Chernov-14.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

In February 2014, Ukrainians seeking closer trade ties with Europe took to the streets in the Euromaidan Revolution. and ousted Yanukovych. This event unraveled President Putin’s efforts to reassert a Russian sphere of influence which he believed was increasingly threatened by former Soviet republics struggles for democracy and NATO membership.

In February-March 2014 Putin invaded and rapidly annexed Crimea and commandeered some Ukrainian Navy ships. At the same time, the breakaway area of Transnistria asked to join Russia. While the G-8 and US condemned the Crimea grab and placed sanctions on Putin and associates, they were not enough to stop Putin.

In 2014, the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade fired a Buk Surface to Air missile downing Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and killing 298 died; Russians kidnapped an Estonian border guard. Russia deployed its military on air, sea, and land to help Syria in 2015 and a large Russia-Belarus military exercise was staged in 2017.

In 2018, Russian Tu-160 bombers visited Venezuela to show solidarity with dictator President Nicolás Maduro and in 2019 Russia ended collaboration with the US on the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russia & China co-develop new submarine in 2020 and Russia was caught interfering in US elections.

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and has threatened Finland, Sweden, and Lithuania in recent months. In June, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas blamed a Russian hacker group for thousands of cyber-attacks against state institutions and businesses (Bloomberg News, 2022).


6. What is Similar to the Cold War

The Cold War dominated national security and industrial priorities from 1947-91 and involved superpowers and allies’ land, air, space, and sea military operations carried out in the around the world. These massive efforts required multiple generations to serve in the military. Putin’s actions are now rapidly reuniting the democratic world again with a new focus on protecting nations like Ukraine and the Baltic states against aggression. Putin is working closely with Chinese Premier Xi who has centralized power in the Chinese Communist Party to coordinate economic, military, and diplomatic efforts against the alliance of democratic nations.

As during the Cold War, the world has divided as nations align into two main camps along with a neutral group of developing countries trying to maintain relations with Russia and China. Political, military, economic/trade competition is building between these two camps. An example of this competition was revealed at the June G-7 meeting: a $600 billion infrastructure initiative to provide an alternate for developing nations rather than China’s Belt and Road program. President Biden stated that nations would see “the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies.”

Avoiding nuclear weapon use is very complex: what would happen if Putin used a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine? Ukraine is not part of NATO, but how would the US and NATO respond? In a concerted attempt to mitigate Putin’s perceived need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, President Biden and NATO leadership have been very careful to avoid actions that might “lead to World War III.” However, given Putin’s recklessness and rashness, this cataclysmic peril cannot be fully mitigated. President Kennedy aptly warned that nuclear powers “must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.” (June 1963 JFK Commencement Speech at American University)

The Ukraine War is becoming bogged-down in artillery, missile, and trench warfare and is turning into a proxy war with US/ NATO versus Putin, Belarus, and allies. This is analogous to the long proxy wars of the Cold War era such the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Angola, and the Middle East.

During the Cold War, the US, NATO, and USSR projected power and deployed forces around the globe. The US maintained long-term Army and Air Force deployments to Europe, Asia, and the Pacific with continuous naval fleet, patrol, and reconnaissance coverage around the world. The Soviets similarly deployed to Cuba, Angola, and Syria and made lengthy naval deployments around the world with anchorages off Hammamet Tunisia, Sollum Egypt, Kythira Island Greece among others.

Efficient and effective logistics was, and still remains key to these capabilities. During the Cold War, the USAF Military Airlift Command constantly moved troops, families, wounded, and supplies. In December 1965 Operation Blue Light was the largest military airlift into a combat zone; an entire brigade including equipment of the 25th Infantry Division was airlifted from Hawaii to Vietnam in less than a month.

During the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the Air Mobility Command refined its capabilities to lift massive quantities of materiel and personnel. The NATO Rapid Reaction Force has been continually improved and its capabilities are now being enhanced further to meet the new threat from Putin.


7. What is not the same as the Cold War

The USSR spread Marxist-Leninist communist ideology around the world. it engaged in supporting communist insurgencies, ‘Wars of National Liberation,’ helping countries develop Soviet-modeled militaries and secret police, and global espionage.

Putin is not spreading ideology, rather he wants to reestablish an authoritarian Russian-dominated sphere of influence by any means necessary including total war. Putin may pause after taking the Donbas and southeastern Ukraine, but his goal is to take all of Ukraine and he may try to take parts of other countries bordering on Russia.

Today the US, NATO, our allies, and Russia have smaller militaries with fewer nuclear weapons and a greater reliance on technology than during the Cold War.

The 44-year Cold War was a superpower competition with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons standing-off between the free West, US, and 15-member NATO on one side and the Soviet Union with the seven countries of the Warsaw Pact on the other.

US and 15-member NATO versus the Soviet Union and along with the seven countries of the Warsaw Pact.

A critical aspect was that both superpowers got accustomed to operating near each other, both sides developed strict nuclear weapons handling and use protocols and a stable normalcy of sorts developed. Today the West faces a brutal dictator in Putin who many believe could use tactical nuclear weapons should he feel threatened.

Americans and Europeans had known the full devastation of WWII and atomic bombs, seen the ravages of Communism, and generations were willing to make sacrifices during the Cold War. In the 1970s, about 70% of the US Congress members had served in the military; 16 million Americans had served in WWII, 2 million in Korea, and 3.5 million during Vietnam.

Universal military conscription in the US, much of NATO, USSR, and the Warsaw Pact affected politics and social systems during the Cold War. During many Cold War years, NATO had over 5 million active military personnel, including up to 435,000 forward-deployed US personnel. The US had over 250,000 troops in Germany for over 40 years and every American knew someone who was “in the Service.” However, today a very small number of Americans are volunteering and recently the US military services are having difficulty recruiting.

The US took its eye off Russia as a threat; especially after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Towers. Priorities were shifted to the ‘Global War on Terror’ and the US and Allies diverted massive resources to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for two decades. The resources of the Departments of Defense, State, and the CIA were concentrated on Southwest Asia and ‘Russia hands’ languished.

We are in a very different world now. The US and Europe had bet that western companies’ ventures and trade with Russia would help stabilize relations and reduce its aggression.

Soviet grain was a key export to the West during the Cold War. Today, Putin’s forces have blockaded Ukraine grain from being shipped out through Black Sea ports and have stolen upwards of one million tons of grain.

During 1992-94 I helped direct a small project within the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (which sought to reduce nuclear risk and develop confidence-building). We brought groups of former Soviet defense executives to Washington for a mini-MBA program and arranged 6-week internships with US companies. These executives were talented leaders and the hope was that they would help stabilize their countries. Now Putin has destroyed Western business relationships for his schemes to reassert Russian dominance.

Fig. 5. Xi has centralized power in the Chinese Communist Party and there won’t be any ‘no’ votes. Source: Unknown Author, Chinese Communist Party meeting (Photograph), Retrieved from Voice of America

After WWII, the US was the only surviving economic, military, political power able to provide stability; but now the authoritarian regimes of China and Russia are collectively challenging the post-Cold War order with their autocratic brand of trade, military coordination, and co-developments.

The Chinese Communist Party centrally commands and plans. China operates a vast industrial and military espionage system throughout the world. China forces companies to share technology and put Communist Party directors on every board of directors. While Western consumers demand the cheaper Chinese goods, a price is being paid which helps strengthen the communist autocracy and contributes to repression of dissent and ethnic minorities.

To counter this, the G-7 created the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) to develop global Infrastructure projects such as a $2 billion solar project in Angola, $600 million for a submarine telecommunications cable connecting Singapore to France via the Horn of Africa and Egypt, and $14 million for an engineering study for Romania’s small modular reactor plant.

The post-Cold War world order has shifted. I think a long-term ’Renewed Limited Cold War’ scenario is unfolding where we are seeing an alliance of “free world” countries: US, Canada, EU, Japan, Korea, Australia, and others pitted against Putin’s Russian orbit (Belarus, Armenia, Chechnya, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Iran, and Syria) and Xi’s China and its allies. There are also countries such as India, UAE, Hungary, Turkey, and Israel which still trade with Russia, and many hundreds of Western companies who still refuse to stop dealing with Russia. These countries and firms are providing blood money in political and/or economic support to Russia as it wages war and commits war crimes on Ukraine.

8. The West was blinded about a potential invasion by gambling on economic (especially energy) and political ties

Fig. 6. Ukrainian defender at Snake Island and the Moskva Source: Ukraine Postal Service (2022), (Stamp Photograph), Retrieved from Ukrposhta, Ukraine’s national post


Germany and the EU gambled heavily on hopes of détente with Russia and that gas sales would cement ties and mellow Putin. During the 1970s and onward, strategies were “Ostpolitik” and “Wandel durch handel (Change through trade) with several large-scale Russia to Europe petroleum pipelines built. In 2012 Nord Stream 1 pipeline opened and Putin convinced former SPD Chancellor Schröder to serve on the Nord Stream, Rosneft, and Gazprom boards. Schröder has now had to resign in disgrace.

In 2022 Russia cut-off or limited gas to Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, and others.

Germany is now sending some arms to Ukraine, is building two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, and has had to return to burning coal to generate electricity.

Europe, the US, Canada, the EU, and many democratic countries have joined in sanctioning Russia, but China, India, Turkey, and UAE have aligned themselves with Russia. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, S. Africa, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Israel, and other countries still want to trade with Russia and may be afraid of retaliation. Additionally, trade disruption costs are driving some initially supportive allies of Ukraine to seek ways to end the conflict to stabilize gas and oil prices and regain trade flows.

Several national airlines are still flying to Russia. Listed in order the of most flights: Turkish Air, Emirates Airlines (UAE), Etihad (UAE), El Al (Israel), Egyptair, and Qatar Airways (Bailey, 2022).

Switzerland blocked ammunition for German Gepard tanks destined for Ukraine. Hungary (gets 85% of its gas from Russia) and Slovakia objected to EU sanctions, so a compromise was reached to allow the southern pipeline to remain open to their region. Prime Minister Orban stated that “ending Russian oil purchases would be an “atomic bomb” on Hungary’s economy.”

Hundreds of western companies have refused to leave the Russian market and many made profits that gave Putin the cash flow to conduct his barbarous war on Ukraine. According to Yale Professor Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld’s research, many US companies have “dug-in” to maintain operations in Russia. Huntsman, International Paper, Koch Industries, Stryker, Tenneco, and Titan International have maintained their operations. Others such as ADM, Baker Hughes, Cargill, Colgate, Kimberly Clark, Otis, and Proctor & Gamble are “buying time.” (Sonnenfeld, 2022).

JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citi, and other firms made hundreds of millions in profits by exploiting loopholes for months to enable continued trading of Russian debt until the US Department of the Treasury finally stopped them.



Ukraine’s valiant fight to save its democracy against Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion is the turning point of our times. With countries and companies seeking to return to, or to maintain relations with Russia despite a brutal war that has disrupted the world order, it remains to be seen how long democratic nations can maintain their unity. We are now embarking on a long-term political, military, and economic competition between two alliances. On one side are democratic nations of the West, the Pacific, and NATO versus autocratic Russia, China, and their allies.

This is a renewed, but Limited Cold War which will dominate nations for decades to come. Will the US, Europe, and NATO be able to remain united and sustain the strong support for Ukraine in the long term for the massive funding needed for economic assistance and military assistance, infrastructure reconstruction, and refugee assistance?



Carpenter, T. (2022). Did Putin’s 2007 Munich Speech Predict the Ukraine Crisis?, Did Putin’s 2007 Munich Speech Predict the Ukraine Crisis? —Cato Institute.

McIntyre, J., The Washington Examiner (2022), NATO poised to take historic action on strategy, enlargement, and Ukraine, NATO poised to take historic action on strategy, enlargement, and Ukraine —Washington Examiner.

Selyukh, A., NPR (2022), What’s happening with Russia’s 1st default on foreign debt in a century, Russia appears to default. Here’s why Putin won’t recognize it : NPR. Sonnenfeld, J., Yale Executive Leadership Institute (2022), Over 1,000 Companies Have Curtailed Operations in Russia—But Some Remain. —Yale School of Management.


Electronic sources

AP (2022), Putin’s week: Facing NATO expansion, West’s unity on Ukraine, Available at: Putin’s week: Facing NATO expansion, West’s unity on Ukraine (

Bailey, J. (2022), Simple Flying, 30 Foreign Airlines Are Still Flying To Russia, 30 Foreign Airlines Are Still Flying To Russia (

Bloomberg News (2022), Ukraine Latest: Amnesty Accuses Russia of War Crime in Mariupol, Available at: Ukraine Latest: Amnesty Accuses Russia of War Crime in Mariupol (

Conley, Melino, and Bermudez, CSIS (2022), The Ice Curtain: Why is there a new Russian military facility 300 miles from Alaska? Available at: The Ice Curtain: Why is there a new Russian military facility 300 miles from Alaska? (
Grove, T., The Wall Street Journal (2002), Russian Missiles Kill 21 in Residential Area in Odessa Region, Ukraine Says, Available at: Russian Missiles Kill 21 in Residential Area in Odessa Region, Ukraine Says (

Schofield, K. (2022) Ukraine Is Winning The War And Russia Has Lost 25,000 Troops, Says Defence Secretary, UK Huff Post, Available at: Ukraine Is Winning The War And Russia Has Lost 25,000 Troops, Says Defence Secretary (


Other sources

BBC News (2002), How many Ukrainian refugees are there and where have they gone? —BBC News.

White House Fact Sheet (2022), President Biden and G7 Leaders Formally Launch the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment —The White House.


By Don Stanton – University of Colorado Denver, 1201 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80204, USA; email:; Don Stanton was commissioned through Cornell University Navy ROTC, served off Vietnam aboard a destroyer and aircraft carrier, flew as a P3C anti-submarine patrol pilot, and co-directed a Nunn-Lugar program teaching former Soviet defense executives about western business practices.

He served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, chairs the Colorado Transportation Commission, holds an MA National Security Studies from Georgetown University, he is the author of the monograph titled: ‘Looking Back at the Cold War-30 Veterans and a Patrol Plane Commander Remember.’

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