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Russia: Saber-Rattling or the Real Deal?

11-07-2016
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MOSCOW – The growing war of words between Russia and the West is spurring rumors of a new cold war. That fear led to recent emergency drills in which millions prepared for the possibility of nuclear war.

In Moscow and across Russia, 40 million people participated in the largest emergency defense drills since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"It's all over the television," retired naval Capt. Yuri Velikotsky told CBN News. "You can feel it; it feels like tensions are rising."
 
From high school students in gas masks to hundreds in hazmat suits to Russian Marines rehearsing enemy interceptions, drills were everywhere.
 
Polls in Russia show half the country fears a new cold war with the West has already begun.

"Of course I'm worried. To be honest, I'm a little bit scared," Moscow resident Natalya Bezprozvannaya told CBN News.

Growing tensions between Russia and the West over the ongoing crisis in Syria are fueling much of the hysteria.

Syria's army, backed by the Russian air force, has been pounding rebel areas of eastern Aleppo for weeks.
 
On one side, the U.S. accuses Russia of war crimes and flexing its military might across the Middle East.

But President Vladimir Putin defends his country's support saying it's necessary to defeat Islamic jihadists in Syria.
 
"We keep hearing 'Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo'. Yes, but the thing is either keeping a terrorist nest there or crushing that nest while doing everything possible to minimize civilian casualties," Putin said.
 
While polls show a majority here support Moscow's presence in Syria, many believe the conflict has hurt their country's global standing.
 
Add to that concern, Russia's recent military action elsewhere.
 
In early October, Russia moved a nuclear-capable missile system close to Poland and Lithuania, while holding several drills on its western border.
 
Then, Russia released the first images of its new thermonuclear-armed ballistic missile dubbed "Satan 2."
 
A government-controlled news agency touted that the missile could destroy an area "the size of Texas or France."
 
Alexei Milovanov is an editor of an independent Russian news website. He believes the military flexing is just saber-rattling, but he also understands why Russia's neighbors are worried.

"If you keep a rifle at home, you know you have it and you can use it if something happens. But if you go out on the porch with this rifle every day and parade it in front of everyone, people will start giving you strange looks," Milovanov, editor of NewKaliningrad.Ru, told CBN News.
 
Meanwhile, NATO is taking notice, building up troops and other resources in Poland, Estonia and Latvia to prevent a potential incursion by the Russians.
 
The U.S. and Britain also just announced plans to send planes and tanks to Eastern Europe next year to join a 4,000-member ground force in the Baltic states.
 
While some say the war chatter is just that – chatter – others have serious concerns about a new cold war that feels like it's well underway.

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