With the world’s eyes firmly fixed on the melting pot of the conflict zones in the Middle East, relations between Russia and the west have been steadily getting worse. Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. This ‘tit for tat’ policy has lead to a standoff between two. State-owned Russian banks can’t access European capital markets, the energy and defense companies will not be able to import hi-tech western equipment and many officials have had their assets frozen. Russia is reportedly threatening to cut off western airlines from crossing Serbian airspace. Russia is Europe’s second largest market for food and drink with exports worth €12.2bn in 2013. With European farmers unable to export and Russians facing food shortage; it’s the common man that will face the brunt of the sanctions.

While the economic fallout for both sides is inevitable, the Arctic Circle is fast becoming a much more ominous flash-point. As more and more ice is melting around the north pole, a fact that should have alarmed world leaders to the grim and exigent reality of Global warming, has instead turned into a mad rush to control the newly opened sea lanes and territories (and the resources they hold). In 2007 Russia sent a submarine under the North Pole to plant a Russian flag as a symbolic assertion of their control over the seabed. In recent years there has been a great escalation in events involving espionage and strategic military deployment. Both sides have convicted people on charges of spying. In March NATO held a military exercise near the Russian-Norwegian border involving 14,000 troops. Russia has responded with its own military exercise which, not surprisingly, was even larger.

It seems that the lessons of the Cold War fell on deaf ears; both sides are rattling their sabers and baring teeth in an effort to cow the other down. The way they are doing it is even more alarming; retaliatory economic and military shows of force are being reported with nationalistic pride and zeal on their respective national websites. Both sides don’t mince words when it comes to explaining the reason behind such events. With further escalation likely, it seems that Putin is backing himself into a corner. His carefully cultivated image as a ‘strongman’ won’t let him back down from this challenge and the west continues to oblige him. At a time where the UN needs to be pro-active in the Middle East, a deadlock in the Security Council would be catastrophic. This personal clash of egos needs to be checked; both superpowers need to realize in a battle of attrition no one ever wins.