With Putin’s “special military operation” into Ukraine on February 24th 2022 it became clear to many observers within a week that this was a war. It represented a step change from the various territorial incursions over the past few decades which had gone under the term “New Cold War”. “The New Cold War” was the title of a book (one of several) first published in 2008 sub-titled: “How the Kremlin Menaces both Russia and the West” authored by Edward Lucas. Lucas was the Central and East European correspondent of The Economist for more than 25 years. The second edition, issued in 2014, was sub-titled: “Putin’s Threat to Russia and the West”. This book revealed some extraordinary attitudes and decisions of certain countries and organisations towards Russia pertaining to natural gas and oil resources, infrastructure, and supplies. There followed diverse responses to Putin’s invasion, with Germany, France and Italy receiving adverse criticism for weak and unclear responses from their leading politicians. Back in 1991 Alan Bullock could claim that “neither Hitler nor Stalin had a successor”, but “following the collapse of the Communist regimes and the Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe the stability of Eastern Europe and above all the ability of the Soviet Union to avoid a relapse into civil war or a return to dictatorship are once more the questions rooted in the Hitler-Stalin period and its legacy, on which Europe’s future depends". The arrival of Vladimir Putin in power in 2000 signalled the beginnings of a “New Cold War”, although some would debate whether Putin is a dictator or a puppet manipulated by the Russian “security service” (now the FSB) or the somewhat broader cronies referred to as “siloviki”.
Already, from October 1999, the Second Chechen War was considered “not only to consolidate Putin’s status as a tough, even ruthless defender of Russia’s interests, but also established certain assumptions about the use of force” and “played a role in shaping his views on geopolitics.” His “brutal tactics” were met by stern words and expressions of grave concern in the West but “lacked one crucial strategic asset: will. That, he seems to have concluded, was Russia’s strategic advantage".