The outbreak of nuclear war within a year between the West and Putin is 'entirely plausible' a former NATO chief has claimed - while promoting his novel about a 2017 war with Russia.
General Sir Richard Shirreff, who served as Nato's deputy supreme allied commander in Europe until 2014, warned that an attack on Baltic states Lativa, Estonia and Lithuania was a possibility.
He said the West should act now and boost its defenses to avoid a 'potential catastrophe'.
General Shirreff has written a fictional book, 2017: War with Russia, in which nuclear war breaks out with Russia over the Baltic nations next year.
But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the scenario was 'entirely plausible'.
He said: 'The chilling fact is that because Russia hardwires nuclear thinking and capability to every aspect of their defense capability, this would be nuclear war.'
He added 'We need to judge President Putin by his deeds not his words.
General Shirreff has written a fictional book called 2017: War with Russia
'He has invaded Georgia, he has invaded the Crimea, he has invaded Ukraine. He has used force and got away with it.
'In a period of tension, an attack on the Baltic states… is entirely plausible.'
“We need to judge President [Vladimir] Putin by his deeds not his words,” the retired general told BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “He has invaded Georgia, he has invaded the Crimea, he has invaded Ukraine. He has used force and got away with it.”
The supposed invasion of Georgia in 2008 was Russia’s response to a Georgian attack on its breakaway region of South Ossetia, which started with the killings of Russian peacekeepers stationed there to prevent such hostilities. Russia responded by defeating the NATO-trained Georgian Army and withdrew. Moscow later recognized South Ossetia as a sovereign state, formalizing its de facto independence from Georgia that had been in place since the 1990s.
The supposed invasion of Ukraine in 2014 was Russia’s use of its troops, which were legally deployed in Crimea under a treaty with Ukraine, to prevent hostilities after an armed coup in Kiev. The Crimean people, who overwhelmingly opposed the new Ukrainian government and its nationalistic leanings, voted in a referendum to part ways with Ukraine and rejoin Russia.
If Russia used military force against any NATO members, the entire alliance would be obliged to declare war on Russia. The US is the most powerful member of NATO and has the world’s biggest military force. According to Shirreff, Russia would use its nuclear arsenal to counter NATO’s response.
“Be under no illusion whatsoever – Russian use of nuclear weapons is hardwired into Moscow’s military strategy,” he said, omitting the fact that NATO’s nuclear nations – the US, Britain and France – have always kept a pre-emptive nuclear strike as a possible option. Russia dropped its pledge not to use nuclear weapons first in 1993.
A scenario of conflict between Russia and NATO members over one of the Baltic states was earlier explored by the BBC in a film, which focused on decision-making at a British advisory body responding to the crisis. In the film, the stand-off escalated into a full-scale nuclear conflict and the advisers contemplating an option to destroy Russia’s biggest cities with Trident missiles.
The independent reports that the scenario in General Shirreff's book sees Russia occupying Ukraine before invading the Baltic nations.
A description of the book on Amazon says the scenario shows 'how war with Russia could erupt with the bloodiest and most appalling consequences if the necessary steps are not taken urgently.'
It comes as it emerged Royal Air Force fighters have intercepted Russian jets approaching Estonia for the second time in a week, the UK Ministry of Defense said.
The Typhoons were scrambled to meet five unidentified aircraft in international airspace near the Baltic State's borders on Tuesday.
They shadowed two Su-27 Flanker fighters and an IL-20 'Coot-A' reconnaissance aircraft north of Estonia before two more Su-27s were detected and met, the MoD said.
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A spokesman said the Russian aircraft 'were operating without transmitting recognized identification codes nor were they communicating with regional air traffic control centers'.
Meanwhile, a NATO commander says hundreds of items of equipment are being disembarked in a Polish port as part of a major test of a new rapid-reaction force's capability to quickly relocate wherever the alliance faces a threat.
Some 500 items and hundreds of troops arrived in Szczecin by ship from Spain and will travel to a western test range in Zagan, where they will be joined by more equipment and troops from Britain, Albania and Poland for the 'Brilliant Jump' exercise that runs until May 27.
Lt. Gen Manfred Hofmann, commander of a multinational corps based in Szczecin, said Wednesday the exercise is to 'prove in the coming days that NATO is ready to defend all its allies.'
Poland, concerned over Russia's actions, has sought firm security guarantees from NATO.