by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, July 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S.-Russia relations are at a low point not seen for more than a decade, but chilled ties between the two are unlikely to plunge the world headlong into another Cold War, experts here said.
As the crisis in the Ukraine threatens to escalate amid U.S. claims that Russia is firing artillery rounds into Ukrainian territory, U.S. media is likening the now frosty relations between Washington and Moscow to a new Cold War.
But experts contend that description amounts to journalistic hyperbole, as current U.S.-Russian tensions in no way resemble the Cold War that engulfed the globe for decades and sparked fears of nuclear destruction.
"It's a good headline, but it's not an accurate reflection of either what the Cold War was or what we are seeing today," RAND Corporation Senior International Policy Analyst Olga Oliker told Xinhua.
"The Cold War was a conflict that lasted decades in which the United States and the Soviet Union were basically fighting over the fate of the world. It involved the entire planet," she said, adding that today's situation is a far cry from that dark chapter of world history.
"This (current issue) is Russia and the United States not getting along...over something that's going on within Europe," she said.
"It's not a global standoff. It's not going to drive all of the defense spending and foreign policy of the U.S. and (Russia)," she said.
Still, the Ukraine crisis does amount to a fundamental and serious disagreement between the U.S. and the Russian Federation, she said, adding that Russia has challenged a vision of European security that the U.S. and its European allies have held to since the end of the Cold War.
In a bid to voice their displeasure of what they believe is a disruption of that vision, the U.S. and European Union hit Moscow with a new round of sanctions earlier this month. Russian President Vladimir Putin has billed the sanctions as "aggressive foreign policy," referring to the sanctions that hit Russian banks, defense firms and energy companies. Putin urged the U.S. to work to stop the bloodshed in the Ukraine instead of slapping sanctions on Russia.
But the sanctions are not expected to stop the crisis, and the White House seems to have few concrete solutions.
"It's a difficult situation because there aren't a lot of easy, satisfying actions one can take," Oliker said of the options available to the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.
"The Obama administration continues to weigh its options," she said.
A full-on military conflict between the U.S. and Russia is highly unlikely, experts said, and Russia would stand little chance in a conflict against fully mobilized U.S. forces, David Clark, chairman of the Russia Foundation, told Xinhua.
He added there are doubts about Russia's capacity to sustain military operations, even in neighboring countries, pointing to the 2008 war with neighboring Georgia. The conflict exposed significant deficiencies in Russian military equipment and organization, so much so that many analysts believe Moscow suspended military operations sooner than it wanted to, Clark said.
That prompted Putin to begin a military modernization program, although it remains unclear how successful that has been, Clark said.
So far the Obama administration has ruled out U.S. military intervention in the Ukrainian crisis and has repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution, as the U.S. faces military budget cuts and a war weary public after more than a decade of military involvement in the Middle East.