Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine are tantamount to a “new Cold War” that has the possibility of escalating to a military conflict, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told the Russian Interfax News Agency Thursday. Gorbachev’s comments were not in line with Russian scholars in the United States, a large majority of whom say war between the U.S. and Moscow is unlikely in the next 10 years.
"I can no longer say that this 'cold war' will not lead to a 'hot war.' I fear that they could risk it," Gorbachev told Interfax, according to the Associated Press. He said Western nations supporting Ukraine “dragged” Russia into a new cold war.
The crisis in Ukraine boiled over when Russia annexed Crimea last year. Kiev accused Moscow of supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine that have been battling the Ukrainian military for control of key cities and sites. Meanwhile, Russia accuses the West of supporting Ukraine’s effort to take back areas of eastern Ukraine that are strongholds of the separatists. The conflict has led to 5,100 deaths, according to the Associated Press.
While Gorbachev, the Soviet Union's head of state from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991, warned of war, most academics surveyed in a snap poll released Sunday don’t envision the U.S. and Russia going to war in the next decade. On a scale of zero to 10, with zero meaning no likelihood of going to war and 10 meaning high likelihood, a plurality of scholars -- 23 percent -- rated the chance at 2. Nearly 20 percent rated the chances as a 3, another 20 percent as a 1 and about 12 percent said there was zero chance, according to the poll conducted by the Teaching, Research and International Policy Project at the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. Only .14 percent of scholars rated the chances of war at a 10.
A plurality of scholars also disagreed that the U.S. and Russia were heading back toward a new cold war. More than 48 percent, or 273 scholars, said that was the case, while 38 percent said the two countries are heading back toward a cold war and about 13 percent weren’t sure.