The United Kingdom may become engaged in a nuclear war with Russia within a year over post-Cold War policies, a former NATO chief warns.
Richard Shirreff said on Wednesday that the situation in Crimea has destroyed the post-Cold War settlement between Russia and the West and paved the way for a massive conflict that could be sparked in a matter of months.
Shirreff made the remarks as he launched his new book “2017 War with Russia” in London. He predicted that Moscow would take control of territory in eastern Ukraine and open up a land corridor to Crimea to attack Baltic states in order to counter the threat from NATO to its national security.
The former British army general also said Russia will first invade Latvia in May 2017 and this would spark a war between the West and Russia.
"The chilling fact is that because Russia hardwires nuclear thinking, this would be nuclear war. We need to judge President [Vladimir] Putin by his deeds not his words. He has invaded Georgia, he has invaded the Crimea, he has invaded Ukraine,” Shirreff said.
"He has used force and got away with it. In a period of tension, an attack on the Baltic states is entirely plausible," he added, noting that the West and the military alliance should provide a suitable deterrence to Moscow.
He further noted that permanent NATO presence is needed in the Baltic states.
This came as Moscow and NATO have been at loggerheads in recent years over the eastward expansion of the military alliance.
Earlier this month, a US-NATO missile system went live in Romania. Officials said the system was aimed at protecting NATO members from threats of short and medium range ballistic missiles. Russia, however, described the move as a clear violation of key clauses of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
NATO also began a military exercise in Poland on Wednesday that involved some 1,500 troops. Polish defense minister announced that he will ask for permanent NATO presence along his country’s eastern border during the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw.
Further NATO drills will be held in the Baltics and Poland later this year with a significant participation of US troops.
In Georgia, the alliance began a two-week military exercise on May 11. The drill is aimed at preparing the Georgian army for joining NATO's quick reaction force, known as the NATO Response Force (NRF), and strengthening Georgia's potential for territorial self-defense.
The US deployed a group of eight tanks from its base in Bulgaria to Georgia to join the exercise. Some 650 US troops as well as 500 Georgian and 150 British soldiers are also involved in the drill.
Georgian Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli said in January that the drill shows Georgia supports US policies in the region.
Moscow called the Georgia drill a provocative step to intentionally destabilize the Caucasus region.
The Kremlin has beefed up Russian military presence near its borders with Eastern Europe and in surrounding countries where NATO has stationed troops.