Skip to content.

Cold War 2.0: The Battle Between Democracies and Autocracies

There is a major battle being waged between the world’s democratic countries led by the United States, Germany, France, South Korea, and Japan and the major autocracies led by China and Russia. This battle, called “Cold War 2.0 Artificial Intelligence in the New Battle between China, Russia, and America” in the new book written by George Takach (published by Pegasus Books and distributed by Simon & Schuster), explains the tensions between the democracies and autocracies and provides thoroughly researched insights into the tensions and risks and what the democracies must do to prevail.

Cold War 2.0 explains that unlike the first cold war between the Soviet Union and the West that developed after World War II, this war is exemplified by the use of military tech and other coercive strategies by the autocracies against the democracies such as cyber attacks, economic coercion, misinformation and cognitive warfare (to sow divisions and interfere in domestic politics), and intellectual property theft. In Cold war 2.0, the autocracies ignore the rules based international order and, as in the case of Russia’s unprovoked and unjust war in Ukraine, and China’s threats to take over Taiwan by military force, attack or threaten to attack peaceful democratic neighbors, especially when they perceive the democracies will not band together to oppose them.

Cold War 2.0 explains that innovations in the accelerator technologies of artificial intelligence, semi-conductor chips, quantum computing, and biotech are and will be the dual use technologies that give the democracies the industrial and military edge. But, to prevail and leverage their innovative advantages, they must develop and maintain policies to act together to push back against the autocracies, have policies that continue to foster technological innovation, and de-couple and prevent the export of the accelerator technologies to the autocracies.

A core theme of Cold War 2.0 is the importance of how the two camps facing off in Cold War 2.0 stack up in terms of technology and innovation. Cold War 2.0 posits that power, whether of the economic, military, or soft form, and geopolitics is derived from the domains of technology and innovation. Cold War 2.0 discusses the drivers and particularly the role of technology and technological innovation and their importance to national prosperity and national security.

Cold War 2.0 also posits that the democracies are well ahead of, and will stay ahead of, the autocracies in the transformative technologies of AI, semi-conductors, biotech and quantum computers and other important technologies such cloud computing, software and software services, internet and telecom platforms, space technologies, fusion technology, robotics and military defense.

George Takach in Cold War 2.0 notes that the “essential battle of Cold War 2.0 is the push by the autocrats to topple the rules-based international order, and the ability—and hopefully willingness, resolve, and stamina—of democracies to resist this dangerous effort by the autocracies.” He explains that “the rules-based, free and open international order based on international law is in grave crisis, with Russia in Ukraine, Hamas in the Middle East, China openly trying to deny the international order in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and with authoritarian narratives penetrating some democracies” Further,  that the democracies “must demonstrate that democracy offers the best model for prosperity, stability, and security.”

Cold War 2.0 also provides insights into the domestic policies of the leading democracies and autocracies. Importantly, it stresses how important international leadership of the United States is to winning Cold War 2.0. It also shows how dangerous the re-election of Donald Trump and the isolationist policies of the Republican Party in the United States are to countering the threats posed by the autocracies of China and Russia.

It is precisely because Cold War 2.0 requires the US to play such a linchpin role as the leading democracy in the world that the rise of autocratic and isolationist tendencies in the US are so disconcerting. There is no sugarcoating the immense risk. Donald Trump has said he would withdraw support from Ukraine. This would embolden Putin, cause a crisis of confidence within NATO, and cause shock waves through the foreign ministries in Seoul, Tokyo, and Canberra…

In a perfect world, American isolationism is an option. In the wildly imperfect world that actually exists, where autocrats constantly strive to expand their physical and digital spheres of empire and oppression, American isolationism cannot become an option. In the early 1920s, after a terrible World War I, America retreated back to the Western Hemisphere and refused to join the League of Nations, not wanting to get entangled in “old world” conflicts anymore. America’s departure from the world stage virtually ensured an even bloodier World War II. Thankfully, America decided to help build a world governed by a rules-based international order after World War II. The result (helped along by deterrence afforded by nuclear weapons, to be sure) has been a lasting peace among the great powers since then. It would be absolute folly for the Republican Party to try again the 1920s geopolitical strategy of isolation, especially when the world is in the midst of Cold War 2.0. Americans need to do the right thing on November 5, 2024, not just for the other democracies of the world, but for themselves…

Responsibility for the immense democracy wrecking ball that is Donald Trump rests not only on Trump’s own shoulders, but also on the many enablers within the Republican Party who speak nary a word against this autocrat wannabe while he attempts to break every institution of domestic and global democracy he possibly can. In truth, the greatest battle to date of Cold War 2.0 will not be fought in Ukraine, or in the Taiwan Strait, but at the American ballot box in November 2024.

As a technology lawyer and lawyer interested in policies that promote innovation in AI and other technologies, I found George Takach’s insights on the importance of innovation to economic prosperity and security to be refreshing.  These are immensely important goals as the democracies are currently grappling with the best policy frameworks to promote ethical and safe innovation without hindering crucial innovation. In the area of AI, the European Union is out in front with the recent agreement on the draft Artificial Intelligence Act (summarized here). The U.K. is taking a pro-innovation decentralized approach, while the Canadian government appears posed to enact a deeply flawed AI regulatory regime law (AIDA) that could well impede Canada’s prosperity and national security in one of the most important, strategic and transformative technologies of our time.

While the focus of Cold War 2.0 is not on the best approach to regulating technologies like AI, because of its critical importance to the prosperity and national security of the democracies, the book counsels taking a “light” pro-innovation approach that fosters completive displacement. According to George Takach:

Artificial intelligence will be central to all the protagonists involved in Cold War 2.0, for the simple reason that it will become a core technology—perhaps the core technology—of the 21st century. In addition, as an accelerator technology, AI is having and will continue to have enormous impact on a range of other innovation.”

“…the legislatures of the relevant democracies should have appropriate science and technology subcommittees hold hearings into AI, and specifically the risks posed by it, but even then the urge to regulate AI should be pursued with restraint, given that there is simply insufficient evidence of harm at this point that would warrant a heavy-handed approach to lawmaking. There might be one day, but that day has yet to come. In the meantime, in order to ensure that they prevail against the autocracies in Cold War 2.0, the democracies should not handicap themselves relative to the autocracies by shutting down AI research unilaterally…

“Particularly in the Cold War 2.0 world of global rivalry, the democracies cannot afford to hamper competitive displacement in their market for software development, which is the secret sauce of so much of their success.”

“Moreover, AI should be regulated, but with a light touch that doesn’t dampen the tempo and volume of research and development or build a digital moat around today’s leading AI behemoths. This will be one of the most consequential legislative interventions in the economy in the history of the United States; Congress and the White House, with the help of the courts, should be prepared to course-correct a few times before they get it right.”

George Takach is well placed to have written this important and thought provoking book. He has a background in international affairs (with an MA from Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton). He was a prominent technology lawyer with McCarthy Tétrault – my law partner for over 30 years – and perhaps one of the best tech lawyers Canada has ever had. He was also a Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School (adjunct) for over 20 years as well as an author of several books on computer law.

Importantly, throughout his illustrious career George Takach could be trusted for his insights and, in my experience, was invariably right on issues. His book Cold War 2.0 is meticulously researched and provides many useful insights to help understand the frightening and perilous times we are living in. It provides many suggestions for pushing back and countering the attacks and risks associated with China and Russia. It deserves to be read and debated.

Cold War 2.0 should also be required reading for policy makers in governments. This is especially so for government departments in charge of promoting innovation in the accelerator technologies, foreign relations, and national security. As for Canada, it should be read by the officials in Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO) who could benefit from Cold War 2.0’s insights and warnings regarding stifling AI innovation such as by an improvident AI law like AIDA, and Global Affairs Canada that manages Canada’s diplomatic relations (among other things) and National Defense – Canada (DND).

George Takach will be appearing at two book launches this week. The first is at McCarthy Tetrault on Monday March 4, 2024. The second book launch will be hosted by the Munk School on March 6, 2024.

George Takach is an engaging speaker and the topic is a red hot one. You will want to attend.

This article was first posted on



Stay Connected

Get the latest posts from this blog

Please enter a valid email address