Ukraine joining NATO would trigger war with Russia
It's the nightmare scenario Europe and the rest of the west is dreading — an aggressive Moscow unleashes its military might, plunging Europe and the world into chaos.
But despite fears a potential war would include nuclear weapons, an Australian expert and former spy thinks there is a far more likely outcome. And it’s almost as terrifying.
“The red line in the sand is if NATO makes Ukraine a member,” Professor Paul Dibb, an Australian Russian expert, told news.com.au.Trump scrapped Obama's flood protections days before Hurricane Harvey
“That will be seen as a call for war.”
That’s the moment that would force Russia’s hand and make war almost inevitable. But Prof Dibb doesn’t agree with a former NATO chief’s prediction that meant Russia would use its nuclear arsenal.
In May, General Sir Richard Shirreff stoked nuclear fears when he warned Europe would be locked in nuclear war with Russia within a year.Government spends £40m to contest disabled benefits - and loses most appeals
An emeritus professor of strategic studies at The Australian National University, Prof Dibb said Russia remains one of the biggest threats to international world order today.
Prof Dibb, who lived a double life as an informer for ASIO against the Soviets from 1965 until 1984, said nuclear war with Russia was not an impossibility.
However he maintains the bigger and more likely threat to peace would be the issue of NATO and Ukraine.'We have a lot of blond women': Trump corrected by Finnish president after mixing up female reporters
Such a move would convince Putin that Russia didn’t have to tolerate US and NATO forces right on his doorstep.
This in turn could have repercussions for Australia with the US forced to pour more resources into stabilising Europe and less into maintaining security in the South China Sea.
Prof Dibb said this would therefore mean any issues arising in China and across the Pacific would take a back seat.Government attacked over new laws on excessive 'fat cat' pay
According to Prof Dibb, Putin regards the disintegration of the Soviet Union as one of the greatest crimes of the 20th Century.
“Putin saw it as Russia not ‘only being robbed, but plundered’, he said.'Not good enough': Juncker attacks UK's approach to Brexit talks
Putin is not only ambitious but patriotic, something he appears to rile up in his fellow countrymen.
“Russians do not believe territories like Crimea belong to Ukraine, but rather to them,” he said.
Prof Dibb said some Russians didn’t accept the view that Ukraine has a right to exist as a separate country and definitely didn’t belong in NATO.Millions in Japan ordered to 'take cover' as North Korea fires missile
Ukraine applied to join NATO Membership Action Plan in 2008 but the idea was shelved two years later.
Prof Dibb admitted Russia’s nuclear capabilities would be a concern for NATO forces.
Another concern was that despite the Russian economy being in trouble, Putin could use the NATO/Ukraine card to justify spending on a war.How Keir Starmer’s plan could cause Theresa May’s Brexit to unravel
Just last month, Prof Dibb voiced concerns about Russia’s ambitions in an article for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
In Why Russia is a threat to the international order, he wrote there was no doubt that Putin’s Russia is seeking to reassert itself as a major power.
He said it was also clear Russia could overwhelm any of its neighbours militarily if they were isolated from Western support.‘Full-scale trade war’: Russia reacts to Trump’s sanctions bill
“The most important political factor is the role of President Vladimir Putin, who’s determined to reassert Russia’s major-power status and recover its standing in the Eurasian geopolitical space.”
He said many Russians today regarded the Soviet Union as a country to be respected and feared and their leader played on this.
Poland hits back at EU 'blackmail' over judicial reforms
In his warning, General Shirreff’s said Europe could be locked in nuclear war with Russia “within a year” triggered by a Russian incursion into Baltic States; Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
The retired general said he had an “awful vision of the Baltic States being seized” and NATO being unable to respond due to Russia having nuclear weapons.Breathing new life Into European defense
His prediction” is the basis for his book War With Russia, which is a fictional account of how a nuclear war in the continent could unfold.
However according to Brisbane-based observer of international relations Nikolay Murashkin such an idea as that raised in the book only serves to “tap into a populist sentiment building on the usual alarmist Cold War narrative”.
The doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge and an associate member of RMIT University’s Centre for Global Research said the narrative is apparently gaining traction as the Western sanctions keep pushing Russia into China’s embrace.Donald Trump met by angry protesters on return to Trump Tower
However he agreed with author’s sentiment that “we mustn’t allow ourselves to sleepwalk into another conflict.”
“Peace needs to be protected — by all parties involved, not unilaterally — and this can’t be achieved through alarmism and reckless escalation,” he said.
“When facing accusations coming from the West, Moscow decision-makers can always counter by a map of numerous US/NATO military bases in countries around Russia, which certainly contribute to Moscow’s insecurity and perceptions about US-inspired regime changes, and, in turn, to another escalation spiral, rather than to the peace these bases claim to establish.”EU Commission ups the pressure on Poland
Russian’s tensions with Ukraine have escalated this week following a war of words over Crimea.
Those tensions hit boiling point yesterday when Ukraine put its troops on combat alert along the country’s de facto borders with Crimea.Why Merkel Is ready for a showdown in Hamburg
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued the order after Moscow accused his country of sending several groups of “saboteurs” to carry out attacks in Crimea, claiming that two Russians died while fending off their incursions.
Ukraine has denied the claim, calling them “a fantasy” and “a provocation.”
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 following a hastily called referendum.'Time for talk is over', US warns North Korea
A conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces flared up in eastern Ukraine weeks later.
The conflict, which is still ongoing has killed more than 9500 people.
Meanwhile, Russian media reports say at least five members of a sabotage group were captured.Theresa May steps back from public sector pay cap as anti-austerity pressure grows
One of the suspects claimed he was part of a group preparing to conduct acts of sabotage and that the group was directed by Ukrainian military intelligence and included some of its officers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced what he described as Ukraine’s “stupid and criminal” action and called a session of his Security Council on Thursday to discuss boosting security in Crimea.
Poroshenko ordered Ukrainian troops to go on combat alert not only on the de facto border with Crimea but also along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, where the warring sides have continued to routinely exchange fire despite a 2015 truce.Merkel commands hefty poll lead as she kicks off re-election campaign