Russia and the West are teetering on the edge of a second Cold War as the number of dangerous or sensitive military encounters have jumped to levels not seen since before 1991.

According to the Dangerous Brinkmanship by the European Leadership Network report, 40 dangerous or sensitive incidents have been recorded in the past eight months alone across a series of "highly-disturbing" incidents.

"We believe the nearly 40 incidents logged are a very serious development, not necessarily because they indicate a desire on the part of Russia to start a war but because they show a dangerous game of brinkmanship is being played, with the potential for unintended escalation in what is now the most serious security crisis in Europe since the cold war," said Thomas Frear, Lukasz Kulesa and Ian Kearns, authors of the report.

Incidents have increased since the Ukrainian crisis began earlier this year.

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has since warned that the world is "on the brink of a new cold war".

The report highlights dangerous or sensitive encounters that have mainly taken place around the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and along the US and Canadian borders.

These include the near-collision between a passenger plane taking off from Denmark and a Russian reconnaissance plane; a mock Russian bombing raid on a heavily-populated Danish island; and the abduction by Russia of an Estonian intelligence agent in September.

"We badly also need to negotiate a new crisis management arrangement with Russia to avoid a major unintentional escalation," said Kearns.

"The Chinese and Japanese have negotiated just such an arrangement in the East China Sea in the last few days. That is what we now need in Europe."