Putin’s Scheming And NATO’s Complaisance Set World On Course For World War Three?

Vladimir Putin’s Russia recently staged one of its biggest-ever nuclear training exercises. The Sun reports that Putin seems to be preparing “for World War III.”

Up to 400 vehicles, including intercontinental ballistic missile complexes (ICBMs), are moving across Putin’s country. Putin reportedly plans to hide the nuclear-capable rocket launchers around the Russian land mass.

The Kremlin is calling [it] an anti-sabotage training exercise.

The Sun has dubbed the vehicles “Putin’s death lorries” and described the whole exercise as “chilling.” The ICBMs will reportedly get some practice as they cross the Russian land mass, periodically encountering simulated enemy attacks. It is hoped that this will help the nuclear units to prepare themselves for real war, according to the report.

The exercise comes in the wake of the recent NATO/Russia summit. Putin is rumored to be concerned about a nuclear shield that recently became operational in states bordering Russia, and about movements of troop in states adjacent to his country.

It is believed that Putin plays war games such as these in an effort to intimidate rivals, put pressure on other nations, and advance the interests of Russia.

RT, the Russian state news agency and voice of the Kremlin, has condemned nearly every US-led military exercise, alleging that it is the US who is attempting to put pressure on Russia or its allies.

One of the most recent examples was the series of alleged war games in South Korea, led by the US.

Putin’s government leaped to the defense of North Korea, writing that “Large-scale defense drills being conducted by the US and South Korea are an alarming attempt to put military and political pressure on North Korea.”

The Putin administration has made it clear that one of the purposes of its military tests is to demonstrate to NATO that Russia still has the capability to launch a first-strike against any member state. Putin also reportedly wishes to make it known that he will not be stopped by any of the American-devised countermeasures, such as the missile shields around Poland and the Baltic states. Strategic Missile Troops Commander Colonel General Sergey Karakaev has been heard crowing that US missile defense shields would be powerless to stop Russian nuclear missiles.

With the recent vote for Britain to leave the EU, Europe has lost more than half of its nuclear arsenal and a large chunk of its conventional force. While the majority of EU members are also NATO members, any dreams of a coherent European foreign policy are now in tatters.

NATO has become much less functional than before, as the US pivots towards Asia. Hillary Clinton herself wrote in Foreign Policy in 2011 that the first century of the 2000s will be “America’s Pacific century.”

One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade [will] be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russia will likely try to use Brexit to improve its strategic position, either by pursuing a more belligerent foreign policy, or merely by pushing for sanctions to be lifted.

In losing Britain, the European Union lost one of the sternest supporters of the sanctions against Russia, which were imposed after Putin waged his war in Ukraine and remained in place after the signing of the Minsk II agreements, or Ukraine peace accord, in February 2015.

There are fears that Britain’s exit from the EU will tip the balance of power in favor of those member states who are prepared to lift sanctions against Russia. These nations include Cyprus and Slovenia, who cite the Putin government’s compliance with the commitments Russia made in the Minsk II agreement as grounds to lift sanctions, according to the New York Times.

Mr. Putin has spent the past 16 years trying to destabilize the West. He has pursued a foreign policy designed to intimidate Russia’s near neighbors, undermine Euro-Atlantic unity and challenge the post-Cold War international order… When 17.4 million Britons voted to leave the European Union on June 23, they did in a day what Mr. Putin could not achieve in over a decade and a half. The European Union has lost one of the strongest supporters of its sanctions against Russia for the war Mr. Putin is waging in Ukraine.

Whatever the long-term repercussions of the Brexit, many believe that the country that stands to benefit the most is Putin’s Russia. Mr. Putin knows this and is even said to devote considerable effort to cultivating and funding Euroskeptic groups, reports NYT.

For example, the National Front party — a far-right party in France — is rumored to have received $11.7 million from a Russian bank in 2014. The Kremlin has also nurtured ties with a number of extreme-right and nationalist parties: Ataka of Bulgaria, Jobbik of Hungary, and the People’s Party of Slovakia.

Britain has made its choice. Brexit has ushered in a fateful moment in European history. The progress toward a Europe whole and free has stalled. The European Union is weaker, Russia is stronger, and Mr. Putin surely knows it.

[Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images]