(Paul J., May 11, 2014, National Interest, “Seven Ways a New Cold War with Russia Will Be Different”, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/seven-ways-new-cold-war-russia-will-be-differentt-10439, Accessed 7/13/14, AA)
Nuclear weapons may play a different role:Mutual assured destruction prevented direct military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Whether it will work equally effectively in a future contest between Washington and Moscow is less clear. Nuclear deterrence is fundamentally subjective and psychological and depends upon credible threats to use nuclear weapons in response to conventional or nuclear attacks.The United States deterred a Soviet invasion through Germany’s Fulda Gap—despite Soviet conventional military superiority—because Soviet commanders believed that Washington might actually use tactical nuclear weapons to slow or stop a breakthrough. Bluntly put, the question today is whether Putin (who may be around for some time) believes that Obama (or his successor) would do the same in the Baltic States or elsewhere in Europe. Together with Moscow’s huge advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, the wrong answer to this question might persuade Russian leaders that they can attack weak NATO members with relative impunity. This could have very dire consequences.