The European Leadership Network has issued a report, stating that the world may be on the verge of a new Cold War, citing recent actions by Russia which it says are destabilizing relations between east and west. The group calls close encounters between Russian and western aircraft and warships cases of "dangerous brinkmanship."
The report stated that the frequency and severity of potentially dangerous incidents between the west and Russia have increased since the Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Russian forces in March 2014.
"[A]lmost 40 specific incidents... have occurred over the last eight months... These events add up to a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles, narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea, simulated attack runs and other dangerous actions happening on a regular basis over a very wide geographical area," the report stated.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who oversaw the fall of his government and the re-establishment of Russia, has recently spoken out on the issue of a "new Cold War" with the United States.
The European Leadership Network, based in London, is composed of numerous former national and military leaders from around Europe.
Of the incidents mentioned in the report, 11 were deemed to be serious, with potential to escalate into more serious conflict. These include near-flybys of warships by military aircraft, threatening spy planes, as well as practice "bombing raids" carried out by Russian pilots. One Russian reconnaissance plane recently narrowly avoided colliding with a civilian aircraft.
A high-ranking intelligence officer from Estonia was abducted by Russian forces, and the government in Moscow ordered a mock "submarine hunt," targeting Swedish vessels.
"Even though direct military confrontation has been avoided so far, the mix of more aggressive Russian posturing and the readiness of Western forces to show resolve increases the risk of unintended escalation and the danger of losing control over events," the international group states in the report.
The Cold War began after the Second World War, as former allies, the United States and Soviet Union, began an arms buildup. Tense relations reached a head during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. This period ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The group put forth three recommendations for Moscow and the West, if they hope to avoid military conflict. Moscow is being urged to reduce their "aggressive" military posture, and western powers should do their best to facilitate this change, the group states. Each side is also being asked to restrain their actions during future incidents. The group also recommends military leaders of Russia and in the west do their best to open lines of communications between their forces, to reduce chances of a misunderstanding that could lead to war.