The unimaginable hell and horror of World War 3 was just minutes away from becoming a stark and brutal reality on 66 separate occasions during the past year and a half, according to experts.
Tensions between Vladimir Putin's Russia and NATO forces is at an all-time high, with the two superpowers being warned that they must reach an agreement when it comes to rules on military exercises to prevent sparking a conflict that could lead to World War 3.
Relations between Putin and Nato have broken down over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and since March last year, "close military encounters" between the two have escalated.
The European Leadership Network (ELN) warned in a recent report that Russia is "actively preparing for a conflict with NATO," which could escalate into a World War 3 scenario, and that both sides have since intensified their large-scale military exercise "with war plans in mind."
"The situation is ripe with potential for either dangerous miscalculation or an accident that could trigger a worsening of the crisis or even a direct military confrontation."
Neither NATO nor Putin appear to be in a mood for compromise. The Daily Express reports that NATO forces have planned approximately 270 exercises this year, and Russia an eye-watering 4,000 drills.
In July, the U.S.-led Rapid Trident military exercises in western Ukraine involving 1,800 soldiers from 18 countries were met by Putin with distaste, and Moscow warned that they could have "explosive consequences."
The Russian foreign minister declared that the drills are "a clear demonstration of NATO's provocative policy to unequivocally support the policies of current Kiev authorities in eastern Ukraine."
"Not only is NATO not ready to recognise the wrongness and possible explosive consequences of holding such drills but it is considerably increasing their scope.
"These actions... may threaten to disrupt the visible progress in the peace process concerning the deep internal crisis in Ukraine."
Increased military exercises by the Kremlin, including a number of Russian planes venturing into foreign airspace, have put NATO forces on high alert in a bid to avoid a World War 3 scenario.
ELN Director Ian Kearns slammed the war games as "contributing to a climate of mistrust" that have "on occasion become the focal point for some quite close encounters between the NATO and Russian militaries."
A paper published by the Henry Jackson Society think tank claims that Putin's possible designs on Britain and the possibility of World War 3 warrants a permanent station of British troops in Eastern Europe to "combat the Putin threat."
The authors of the report maintain Moscow has adopted a policy to generate "manageable chaos" along NATO's eastern flank, and Britain must take necessary measures that are "sufficient to deter Russian provocation."
"To re-assert the European dimension of its global policy more forcefully will likely require a new British military footprint in Eastern Europe, including the permanent stationing of British troops in exposed Allied nations."
Previously, U.K. Defence Minister Michael Fallon has dismissed any possible World War 3 scenarios caused by the escalating tension between Russia and NATO but now admits he cannot see an end to the stand-off anytime soon.
"Russia is continuing to test NATO's resolve, but we have shown we are standing firm."
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