Seventy years after the first Cold War began, and almost 24 years after it ended, the United States is again stationing troops and tanks in Europe to protect against Russian aggression, specifically in Baltic states. It appears, 26 years after the Berlin Wall fell, that if we’re not at the start of a new Cold War, then at least the winds from the East certainly appear chilly.
In the first Cold War, American-led NATO forces stared down the Russian-led Warsaw Pact, and for forty-five years Europe remained divided into two opposing armed camps. The whole affair was a miserable nuclear standoff that reads much better in Tom Clancy novels than it played out in real life.
The end of the Cold War gave us an odd historical moment. The United States sat unparalleled as the most powerful military force on earth. NATO expanded, adding countries that were not only once part of the Warsaw Pact but even ones that were part of the USSR. It looked, for a brief moment, that Russia might even transition to a functioning democracy.
That didn’t last long. Russian president Vladimir Putin served two terms from 2000 to 2008, then held onto power as Prime Minister from 2009 to 2012 before starting a third term as President. Under his watch Russia has rebuilt some of its military strength, and explicitly invaded neighbors like Georgia to the south and supported pro-Russian separatists to the West in Ukraine.
If there is a new Cold War, how will it be different than the one that ended 24 years ago? Here’s how military technology has changed for combat on ground, sea, air and space:
U.S. Then: M1 Abrams
U.S. Now: Bradley Fighting Vehicle
Russia Then: Soviet T-80
Russia Now: Armata Tank
U.S. Then: USS Lincoln
U.S. Now: Zumwalt Destroyer
Russia Then: Submarine Severodvinsk
Russia Now: Mistrals, Maybe
U.S. Then: The A-10
U.S. Now: F-35
Russia Then: Su-25 Frogfoot
Russia Now: Su-35
Strategic Defense Initiative logo
U.S. Now: X-37B
Russia Then: Drawing Of Salyut 3
Russia Now: Object 2014-28E, Soviet Anti Satellite Weapon