Sources disagree as to whether a period of global tension analogous to the Cold War is possible in the future, while others have used the term to describe the ongoing renewed tensions, hostilities, and political rivalries that intensified dramatically in 2014 between Russia and its allies and the United States and its allies.
While new tensions between Russia and the West have similarities with those during the Cold War, there are also major differences, such as modern Russia's increased economic ties with the outside world, which may potentially constrain Russia's actions, and provide it with new avenues for exerting influence, such as in Belarus and Central Asia, which have not seen the type of direct military action that Russia engaged in less cooperative former Soviet states like Ukraine and the Caucasus region. The term "Cold War II" has therefore been described as a misnomer.
Some observers, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, judged the Syrian Civil War to be a proxy war between Russia and the United States, and even a "proto-world war". In January 2016, senior UK government officials were reported to have registered their growing fears that "a new cold war" was now unfolding in Europe: "It really is a new Cold War out there. Right across the EU we are seeing alarming evidence of Russian efforts to unpick the fabric of European unity on a whole range of vital strategic issues".
In an interview with Time magazine in December 2014, Gorbachev said that the US under Barack Obama was dragging Russia into a new cold war. In February 2016, at the Munich Security Conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO and Russia were "not in a cold-war situation but also not in the partnership that we established at the end of the Cold War", while Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking of what he called NATO's "unfriendly and opaque" policy on Russia, said "One could go as far as to say that we have slid back to a new Cold War". In October 2016 and March 2017, Stoltenberg said that NATO did not seek "a new Cold War" or "a new arms race" with Russia.
In February 2016, a National Research University academic and Harvard University visiting scholar Yuval Weber wrote on E-International Relations that "the world is not entering Cold War II", asserting that the current tensions and ideologies of both sides are not similar to those of the original Cold War, that situations in Europe and the Middle East do not destabilize other areas geographically, and that Russia "is far more integrated with the outside world than the Soviet Union ever was". In September 2016, when asked if he thought the world had entered a new cold war, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, argued that current tensions were not comparable to the Cold War. He noted the lack of an ideological divide between the United States and Russia, saying that conflicts were no longer ideologically bipolar.
In October 2016, John Sawers, a former MI6 chief, said he thought the world was entering an era that was possibly "more dangerous" than the Cold War, as "we do not have that focus on a strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington". Similarly, Igor Zevelev, a fellow at the Wilson Center, said that "it's not a Cold War [but] a much more dangerous and unpredictable situation".CNN opined: "It's not a new Cold War. It's not even a deep chill. It's an outright conflict".
Large nuclear weapons stockpile with global range (dark blue), smaller stockpile with global range (medium blue)
In January 2017, a former US Government adviser Molly K. McKew said at Politico that the US would win a new cold war.The New Republic editor Jeet Heer dismissed the possibility as "equally troubling[,] reckless threat inflation, wildly overstating the extent of Russian ambitions and power in support of a costly policy", and too centred on Russia while "ignoring the rise of powers like China and India". Heer also criticized McKew for suggesting the possibility.Jeremy Shapiro, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution, wrote in his blog post at RealClearPolitics, referring to the US–Russia relations: "A drift into a new Cold War has seemed the inevitable result".
In March 2018, Harvard University professors Stephen Walt and then Odd Arne Westad criticized the term usage as reference to increasing tensions between the Russia and the West as "misleading", "distract[ing]", and too simplistic to describe the more complicated contemporary international politics.
Russian news agency TASS reported the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying "I don't think that we should talk about a new Cold War", adding that the US development of low-yield nuclear warheads (the first of which entered production in January 2019) had increased the potential for the use of nuclear weapons.
In October 2018, Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told Deutsche Welle that the new Cold War would make the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and other Cold War-era treaties "irrelevant because they correspond to a totally different world situation." In February 2019, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the withdrawal from the INF treaty would not lead to "a new Cold War". As of June 2019, more than 90% of world's 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States combined. In August 2019, the US under Trump administration withdrew from the Treaty, triggering threats from Russia of a new arms race. Later in August 2019, the US launched their first post treaty test missile.[relevant? – discuss]
Donald Trump, who was inaugurated as US President on 20 January 2017, had repeatedly said during his presidential campaign that he considered China a threat, a stance that heightened speculations of the possibility of a "new cold war with China".Claremont McKenna College professor Minxin Pei said that Trump's election win and "ascent to the presidency" may increase chances of the possibility. In March 2017, a self-declared socialist magazine Monthly Review said, "With the rise of the Trump administration, the new Cold War with Russia has been put on hold", and also said that the Trump administration has planned to shift from Russia to China as its main competitor.
In July 2018, Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA's East Asia mission center, told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado that he believed China under paramount leader Xi Jinping, while unwilling to go to war, was waging a "quiet kind of cold war" against the United States, seeking to replace the US as the leading global power. He further elaborated: "What they're waging against us is fundamentally a cold war — a cold war not like we saw during [the] Cold War (between the U.S. and the Soviet Union) but a cold war by definition". In October 2018, a Hong Kong's Lingnan University professor Zhang Baohui told The New York Times that a speech by United States Vice President Mike Pence at the Hudson Institute "will look like the declaration of a new Cold War".
In January 2019, Robert D. Kaplan of the Center for a New American Security wrote that "it is nothing less than a new cold war: The constant, interminable Chinese computer hacks of American warships’ maintenance records, Pentagon personnel records, and so forth constitute war by other means. This situation will last decades and will only get worse".
In February 2019, Joshua Shifrinson, an associate professor from Boston University, criticized the concerns about tensions between China and the US as "overblown", saying that the relationship between the two countries are different from that of the US–Soviet Union relations during the original Cold War, that factors of heading to another era of bipolarity are uncertain, and that ideology play a less prominent role between China and the US.
In April 2019, economist and Yale University academic Stephen S. Roach wrote, "The US economy is weaker now than it was during [...] Cold War 1.0," and recommended that the US and China either improve their relations, particularly by resolving their trade war, or would face "Cold War 2.0". Moreover, Roach predicted that "economic resilience" would occur in upcoming months in the US, while he asserted that the weakening of China's economy "could run its course by mid-year."
In June 2019, academic Stephen Wertheim called President Trump a "xenophobe" and criticized Trump's foreign policy toward China for heightening risks of the new cold war, which Wertheim wrote "could plunge the United States back into gruesome proxy wars around the world and risk a still deadlier war among the great powers." A Peking University dean David Moser told a Chinese tabloid Global Times that the cold war between the US and China would heighten racial tensions between the societies and would spread among the US universities, affecting Chinese visa students who want to study there. An American University (Washington, D.C.) professor Amitav Acharya told Global Times that the term "new Cold War", which he criticized as one of "catchphrases that risk turning into self-fulfilling prophecies", not be referred to the increasingly complex US–China tensions. Furthermore, Acharya said that the tensions could not be adequately described by a "single factor or phrase" and "the causes [...] are deeper and more structural than just competition over tariffs and technology."
^Malyarenko, Tatyana; Stefan Wolff (15 February 2018). "The logic of competitive influence-seeking: Russia, Ukraine, and the conflict in Donbas". Post-Soviet Affairs. 34 (4): 191–212. doi:10.1080/1060586X.2018.1425083.