Amid Strained Relations, Russia Revives Cold War-Era Drills

October 27, 2016 Updated: October 28, 2016

The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations is revisiting a Soviet-era civil defense plan and is upgrading its bomb shelters in major cities amid rising tensions with Washington, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Just several weeks ago, Russia held its largest civil defense drills since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, with some 40 million people taking part in rehearsals to respond to potential chemical, biological, or nuclear attacks.

Videos showing workers and officials in hazmat suits practicing with civilians were displayed on Russian TV stations during four days of drills.

Tensions between the United States and Russia have reached a low point after a breakdown in talks over the war in Syria. Russia also pulled out of a nuclear-nonproliferation agreement, claiming the U.S. is engaging in “unfriendly acts” against its interests. Also, it allegedly moved missiles to its military enclave of Kaliningrad.

This week, Moscow unveiled its nuclear-capable RS-28 Sarmat, or “Satan 2,” rocket that is capable of destroying an area the size of France or Texas.

Russian state-run media outlets have also stepped up the anti-American rhetoric. “Russia is sick of America’s arrogant lies,” commentator Dmitry Kiselyov said earlier this month after Syria peace talks collapsed.

“Most people believe that the Third World War has begun, but right now we are still in the cold phase of the war, which may or may not turn into a hot war,” Lev Gudkov, head of the Russian polling group Levada-Center, told the WSJ. “And during war, you have to support your country’s authorities.”

Meanwhile, thousands of NATO troops will be sent to areas near Russia’s borders. On Wednesday, Britain said it would send fighter jets to Romania next year, while the U.S. promised tanks, artillery, and troops to Poland, Reuters reported.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said troops will be contributed to a 4,000-strong force in the Baltic region and eastern Europe. “This month alone, Russia has deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad and suspended a weapons-grade plutonium agreement with the United States,” Stoltenberg said.

In terms of nuclear war, the U.S. holds the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction,” which consists of a spread-out nuclear arsenal that would return fire if another nuclear power attacks.