In October this year, two months before its ambassador to Turkey was assassinated, Russia had undertaken an unprecedented evacuation drill for more than 40 million civilians to prepare for a possible nuclear war.

More than 200,000 emergency services personnel and soldiers used 50,000 pieces of equipment, according to Russian Defence Ministry-run Zvezda TV network, giving rise to worries whether the ongoing “second cold war” between Russia and other Western powers might lead sooner or later to another full scale.

As international tension builds following developments in Syria, Russian state officials prepared citizens for a war and the massive exercise was run by EMERCOM, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry. EMERCOM had earlier announced that underground shelters were being built, which could fit the entire population of Moscow – 12 million – if war broke out.

According to Lt Gen Evgeny Buzhinsky, a former head of the Russian ministry of defence’s international treaties department and now head of the PIR centre, a Moscow think tank, “If we talk about the last Cold War, we are currently somewhere between the erection of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile crisis.”

Asked whether the present crisis was a return to the Cold War, Gen. Richard Shirreff former deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe bluntly said at the Brookings Institution in October, “I think it’s more dangerous than that.”

American military generals, who participated in a ‘future-of-the-Army’ panel discussion in Washington recently warned that the next war would be “extremely lethal and fast.”

In the wake of its deteriorating relations with Western powers, Russia, in October, had ordered all its officials living abroad to fly home any relatives living with them. Politicians and high-ranking figures are said to have received a warning and call from President Vladimir Putin, to return to the Motherland. The order was meant for administration staff, regional administrators, lawmakers of all levels and employees of public corporations.

Russia currently has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons with 8,400 warheads, and a section of its nuclear doctrine allows use of the weapons if there is a vague suggestion of a threat. America claims to have 7,500 nuclear warheads, considerably less.

The Russian military has claimed that they have successfully tested a new radio-electronic weapon that uses “direct energy” beams to destroy electronic systems in aircraft and drones. According to the manufacturer it is ‘unrivalled’ in the world.