A rivalry with Russia. A proxy battleground. Nuclear brinksmanship. For many generations of Americans, it’s just like old times.

The invasion of Ukraine has rapidly returned echoes of a Cold War mentality to the United States, with a familiar foe in Russia. Bars have poured out their Russian vodka. McDonald’s, a symbol of the end of the Soviet Union when it first opened in Moscow, has shuttered its Russian locations. Once again, a U.S. president sees a pitched ideological battle. “We will save democracy,” President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address.

For an America where Russia never quite went out of style as an evergreen villain in film and television, revived tensions with the Kremlin have drawn from a well-worn geopolitical script. A familiar, chilly East-West wind is blowing again.

“It’s very much a Cold War echo,” says James Hershberg, professor of history and international affairs at Georgetown University and former director of the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Hershberg sees much that's different about today’s inflamed tensions with Russia. Vladimir Putin’s aggressions, he says, don’t seem driven by ideology the way communism was for the Soviet Union. A transformed media landscape, too, has helped turn Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into a global protagonist.

But in a crisis that pits two nuclear superpowers on opposing sides, history is repeating in other ways. A Russian strategic overreach, Hershberg says, is again sparking a potentially perilous moment in international order.

“We are in a second Cuban Missile Crisis in many ways in terms of the danger of escalation,” says Hershberg, whose books include “Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam.” “Putin is acting so irrationally he makes Nikita Khrushchev appear like a rational actor in comparison.”

The largest land conflict in Europe since World War II, Russia’s two-plus weeks of war in Ukraine has rallied Western alliances like few events before it. In repudiating Putin’s invasion, the U.S. and its European allies have enacted crippling economic sanctions on Russia -- which Biden on Tuesday extended to Russian crude oil -- while still drawing the line on military engagement with Russia.

“If we’re talking about a capitalized Cold War, I don’t think I could call this Cold War II,” says Fredrik Logevall, professor of history and international affairs at Harvard and Pulitzer-Prize winning author most recently of “JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956.”

“But," Logevall says, “if we’re talking more generally about a cold war, if we mean a titanic struggle that involves all aspects of national power waged between two incompatible systems but short of outright military conflict — then yeah, I guess this is a cold war.”

In Russian invasion of Ukraine, Cold War echoes reverberate. #UkraineRussia #UkraineInvasion #ukraineconflict

The Cold War is innately connected to the crisis in Ukraine partly because it so much informs Putin’s world view. A former KGB agent, he once called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. The invasion of Ukraine is intended to deter Western influence and NATO infringement from Russia’s sphere of influence, and potentially to restore a Texas-sized part of the former Soviet Union.

Barely two weeks in, the Cold War has often been invoked. The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said “the threat to global security now is more complex and probably higher” than during the Cold War, partly because there aren’t the same back channels of communication. A Russian Foreign Ministry official, Alexander Darchiyev, according to an Interfax report, recently suggested that “perhaps it would be worth recalling the well-forgotten principle that worked during the Cold War — peaceful coexistence.”

Even before war began in Ukraine, Americans had a historically dim view of Russia. According to Gallup poll conducted in February, 85% of Americans viewed Russia unfavorably, easily the country’s worst rating in more than three decades — a slide accelerated by Russia's meddling in U.S. elections, its annexation of Crimea and the nerve agent attack on Putin's leading opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who's currently imprisoned.

And while former president Donald Trump has maintained his esteem for Putin, anti-Russian opinion has uncommon bipartisan support. Gallup found that 88% of both Republicans and Democrats have an unfavorable view of Russia. Nothing unites like a common enemy.

Nina Khrushcheva, a Moscow-born professor of international affairs at the New School in New York and the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, maintains that the Cold War never really went away — that the West’s view of Russia remained stuck in the broad portrayals of villains Boris and Natasha in “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoons. To her, Putin’s invasion was devastating because it confirmed the worst about her native country. Now, she begins her classes by apologizing.

“Putin is the global villain he deserves to be, and Russia is finished for decades to come,” says Khrushcheva, whose great-grandfather was premier of the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when John F. Kennedy was president of the United States. "My country just killed itself," she says, and the U.S. “got their enemy back.”

“They got their enemy that has always been, always deserves to be and is always at the forefront of the American mind,” says Khrushcheva. “Russia has no excuse. But for America, it’s a field day. America is back and it’s on a white horse saving a white country in the middle of Europe against the horrible Russian Bear.”

Logevall, who co-authored the book “America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity,” doesn’t expect a Cold War rerun. The world isn’t as bipolar as it was decades ago. China, which signed a pact with Russia shortly before the invasion of Ukraine, looms much larger. And the interconnectedness of the global economy -- where waves of corporations have severed ties with Russia -- makes isolated coexistence harder to tolerate.

The conflict in Ukraine seems sure to be at least a coda to the Cold War, if not a new beginning.

“Putin feels great resentment about how the Cold War ended. The West declaring victory. Russia losing power and influence. I think he resents a certain Western triumphalism,” Logevall says. “In a way, I think history is what drives him.”

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"Nothing unites like a common enemy" ... too true. And this one doesn't even sport a moustache!

My husband spent many years in the peace and disarmament movement. The atrocities and war crimes happening in Ukraine — especially under the cloud of nuclear brinkmanship — have broken his spirit. Never could he have imagined this happening again.

I like Alexander Darchiyev's suggestion that “perhaps it would be worth recalling the well-forgotten principle that worked during the Cold War — peaceful coexistence.” Instead of MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction — as a deterrent, I'm calling for Mutually Assured Survival. We are not going to survive the climate emergency as a species if this sort of tragic misguidedness (I'm doing my best to not use swear words here) keeps us from that vital focus. If Putin wants Russia to survive climate disruption and chaos (summer of 2010, anyone?), he's going to have to become a human being again and work with the rest of us.

Just for the record, the Cuban Missile Crisis was not a case of Russian overreach, and Khruschev's actions at the time were quite rational. What is fairly rarely mentioned was that the United States had just set up nuclear missiles in Turkey at the time. The Russians feared, well, exactly what the US feared from the missiles in Cuba: That the US could now, and quite plausibly would, mount a first strike that could hit so quickly that there would be no chance for Russian retaliation, breaking mutually assured destruction. So yes, we started it, and of course pretended the Russians were totally unprovoked--a common pattern for the US and its allies.

So Khrushchev put missiles in Cuba to even the scales and scare the Americans. In the end, he successfully negotiated for the removal of both the missiles in Cuba AND THE US MISSILES IN TURKEY. Again, that second bit doesn't get mentioned very often, but it was his objective in putting the missiles there in the first place, and he achieved it. Sounds like rational action to me.

Similarly, there is a good deal of rationality in Putin's actions. Not a lot of niceness, or respect for international law, but NATO sounds pretty hypocritical complaining about that given NATO's track record. I think we should be clear about just what the situation is: The United States spent, according to Victoria Nuland herself, five billion dollars to get themselves a coup in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the government in Urkaine has been consistently hostile to Russia (and indeed its own Russian speaking population), has been fairly consistently seeking to join NATO, has recently talked about building nuclear weapons, and has refused to negotiate on any of this; NATO for its part has encouraged all this and helped to arm Ukraine. When Russia complained to NATO, Europe and the US about all this, and emphasized over and over that they feel their security is massively threatened, the response has been basically "So? What are you gonna do about it, punk?"
So eventually they showed us what they were gonna do about it.

It's all really unfortunate, particularly for the average Ukrainian who never had anything to do with any of this. And I disagree with Putin's decision to go to war. But talking like this suddenly blew up out of nowhere with Russia starting a cold war is ignorant. We've been creating a cold war for years, it's just most Westerners didn't notice because it was no skin off their nose. Now Russia's retaliating and we're all "Putin must be a madman, what did we ever do?" because we haven't been paying attention to what we ever did, which has been plenty.

Ditto. Amen. And thank you.
“'We will save democracy,' President Joe Biden said," and probably without an iota of irony intended. They're all so used to bullying the world with threats and (unkept) promises, that they don't have any energy left to reflect on the logical consequences of their actions. And they don't live up to their agreements.
Having raised kids, I bother to look at both sides. Lord knows there are plenty of sources out there of apologists for everything communist, everything Russian. Absolutely what Russia's done/is doing in Ukraine is ... beyond deplorable: vocabulary fails me. AND the US has goaded and goaded and goaded Putin. Mostly, pots shouldn't go around calling kettles black.
There are videos available (for free) that can answer the questions implied when newscasters/commentators refer to his comments regarding Nazis and add "whatever that means."
Oddish, when in both the US and Canada there have been Nazi, confederate and white supremacist flags in plain view: are their memories really *that* short?
Anyway, check these out. Even if only a small percentage of it is true, it changes the storyline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4
https://rumble.com/vwxxi8-ukraine-on-fire.html
https://rumble.com/vwy6pm-revealing-ukraine.html