World War 3 may be the aim of Vladimir Putin, but experts believe he hopes to advance westward toward Europe without having to fire any more shots.
The Russian president has become increasingly hostile toward the west, beginning with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of the crisis there and continuing with other acts of aggression. In recent weeks, Putin has reportedly threatened nuclear war against Ukraine and Russian jets have flown toward American and Canadian airspace.
Now senior Polish officials are worried that Putin will not be satisfied with occupying Crimea, and instead plans to grab more of the Baltic states.
According to Gulf News columnist Gideon Rachman, Putin believes he can advance Russian troops can make their westward advance without any resistance.
"Putin has worked the West out," Rachman quoted an unnamed Polish official. "He knows we won't use force."
Rachman adds that there is a threat of World War 3 in Vladimir Putin's intentions.
"The darkest Polish scenario is also that Putin may be tempted to go up to the nuclear brink by using conventionally armed missiles that could carry nuclear warheads. The dangers of such a policy hardly need spelling out. But destroying the credibility of NATO's security guarantee to the Balts — and therefore of NATO itself — will be a tremendous prize for Russia."
The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that Vladimir Putin bragged to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that Russia could invade Eastern Europe if they wanted to.
"If I wanted, in two days I could have Russian troops not only in Kiev, but also in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest," Putin reportedly said.
But there is still hope in many European countries that World War 3 could be avoided and Vladimir Putin can be stopped in his ambitions, though that depends on Russia honoring a ceasefire with Ukraine and curbing its ambitions to grab more land.