According to a former deputy commander of NATO, the West is currently on a direct course toward war with Russia — and it will happen sooner than anyone realizes.
In a book published Wednesday, 2017 War With Russia, Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff discusses how Crimea set the stage for an almost inevitable war, beginning next year, between Russia and nations traditionally standing in opposition to its actions.
Shirreff, as noted by the Guardian, predicts that in an attempt to escape the encirclement of the country by NATO, Russia “will seize territory in eastern Ukraine, open up a land corridor to Crimea and invade the Baltic states.”
Though such a bold prediction is a highly unusual position for a former NATO commander to take, his experience — specifically his service in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and the Balkans in the British military — gives him keen insight into geopolitical strategy not to be taken lightly. Or, perhaps, Shirreff remains in the international geopolitical strategy loop.
As journalist and investigative historian Eric Zuesse noted later on Wednesday, NATO abruptly redefined its stance concerning relations with Russia — and, for all intents and purposes, it amounts to an abandoning of the previously sought warm diplomacy.
In the 1997 NATO-Russia Agreement, it was agreed the relationship would be “based on an enduring political commitment undertaken at the highest political level, will build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security.
“NATO and Russia do not consider themselves adversaries.”
But in its shift, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute, stated, as New Europe reported, “It’s time we move beyond talk.” Beginning Thursday, leaders from NATO’s now-29 member states are meeting in its Brussels headquarters to parse out how the alliance could better deal with threats outside its member states — including North Africa, the Middle East, and, apparently, Russia.
“We’re looking for niche capabilities that the alliance can add to reinforce or support the coalition,” Lute told reporters.
As a test of NATO’s ability to defend member nations, and in support of Poland’s perceived threat of recent actions by Russia, the alliance disembarked its “Spearhead” rapid-reaction force on Wednesday. According to the Associated Press:
“Some 500 items and hundreds of troops arrived in Szczecin by ship from Spain and were to travel immediately to a test range in western Zagan, where they are to be joined by more equipment and troops from Britain, Albania, and Poland for the ‘Brilliant Jump’ exercise that runs until May 27.”
“Brilliant Jump” intends to “prove in the coming days that NATO is ready to defend all its allies,” said Lt. Gen. Manfred Hofmann. Poland has additionally requested the permanent presence of U.S. troops inside its borders, which will be addressed at the NATO summit in Warsaw in July.
Shirreff specifically mentions Latvia as the first of the Baltic states to be invaded by Russia, as the Guardian noted, and as a NATO member, would present just cause for the alliance to act in its defense — thus potentially triggering war. Addressing skeptics at the book launch, Shirreff claimed Ukraine’s non-member status wouldn’t present the same motive as an invasion of the Baltic states for igniting conflict. To wit, the former commander advised pre-positioning of allied members as a way to stave off the otherwise inevitable war.
But NATO’s Polish military maneuvers aren’t the only location evidencing Shirreff’s remarks about the alliance strategically positioning itself around Russia’s perimeter.
Lute, together with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, reaffirmed NATO’s open door policy, as would be specifically applicable to Georgia, in advance of Montenegro’s acceptance as NATO’s 29th member on Thursday.
“We will continue to defend Georgia’s right to make its own decisions,” Stoltenberg asserted, according to New Europe.
As Zuesse pointed out, Georgia — together with the Baltic states and Poland — would shore the perimeter encircling Russia’s borders and offers a potential site for nuclear missile capability. This encroachment on Russia shows the perceived threat it represents to both NATO and the United States; last year, a top American general described the country as a greater menace than even the jihadist groups the U.S. is currently battling throughout the Middle East.
According to U.S. admiral James Stavridis, who penned the forward in Shirriff’s book, “Under President Putin, Russia has chartered a dangerous course that, if it is allowed to continue, may lead inexorably to a clash with Nato. And that will mean a war that could easily go nuclear.”
Shirreff seconds the idea, insisting such installments would pose an essential nuclear deterrent, writing, “Be under no illusion whatsoever — Russian use of nuclear weapons is hardwired into Moscow’s military strategy.”
All of this geostrategic wrangling and theorizing should be considered under the context of Thursday’s initiation of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which “will connect the Caspian Sea to European markets, providing Europe with another large source of natural gas that will help the continent diversify away from Russia,” notes OilPrice.com.
“The route begins at the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, where the South Caucuses Pipeline will carry Caspian gas from the large Shah Deniz-2 gas field, delivering it to the border with Turkey. From Turkey the gas will tie into the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), which will take the gas across Turkey to the border with Greece where it will meet up with the aforementioned Trans-Adriatic Pipeline. The Caspian gas will then travel through TAP across Greece, beneath the Adriatic Sea and onto Italy.”
In fact, the strategies involved in Western relations with Russia, Middle Eastern nations, and Turkey potentially all revolve around natural resources and this very pipeline. Whether or not nuclear war proves the risk these resources appear to demand remains an open question to most everyone — except Shirreff.