BEIRUT — Something significant happened in the last few days of April, but it seems the only person who noticed was Stephen Cohen, a professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University.
In a recorded interview, Cohen notes that a section of the Russian leadership is showing signs of restlessness, focused on President Vladimir Putin’s leadership. We are not talking of street protesters. We are not talking coups against Putin — his popularity remains above 80 per cent and he is not about to be displaced. But we are talking about serious pressure being applied to the president to come down from the high wire along which he has warily trod until now.
Putin carries, at one end of his balancing pole, the various elites more oriented toward the West and the “Washington Consensus“ and, at the pole’s other end, those concerned that Russia faces both a real military threat from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and a hybrid geo-financial war as well. He is being pressed to come down on the side of the latter, and to pry the grip of the former from the levers of economic power that they still tightly hold.
In short, the issue coming to a head in the Kremlin is whether Russia is sufficiently prepared for further Western efforts to ensure it does not impede or rival American hegemony. Can Russia sustain a geo-financial assault, if one were to be launched? And is such a threat real or mere Western posturing for other ends?
What is so important is that if these events are misread in the West, which is already primed to see any Russian defensive act as offensive and aggressive, the ground will already have been laid for escalation. We already had the first war to push back against NATO in Georgia. The second pushback war is ongoing in Ukraine. What might be the consequences to a third? …
Former Nato chief warns of nuclear war with Russia if there is no Baltic defence boost, by Brendan Cole, International Business Times, May 18, 2016 (full text of article)
One of Nato’s most senior retired generals has warned that the West risks a nuclear war with Russia within a year if it does not boost its defences in the Baltic states amid increasing tension between Moscow and the alliance.
General Sir Richard Shirreff, who served as Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander in Europe until 2014, said that the West should act to avert a “potential catastrophe” should Moscow target Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
He told the BBC Radio 4 programme Today on Wednesday (18 May): “The chilling fact is that because Russia hardwires nuclear thinking and capability to every aspect of their defence capability, this would be nuclear war.
“We need to judge President [Vladimir] Putin by his deeds not his words,” he added. “He has invaded Georgia, he has invaded the Crimea, he has invaded Ukraine. He has used force and got away with it.”
His comments come ahead of a release of his fictional book ‘2017: War with Russia’ and only days after an alliance missile defence system in Romania became operational.
The missile defence station at Deveselu in Romania will have SM-2 missile interceptors and will be formally merged into the Nato missile shield. Nato officials have also revealed that another facility would be ready in Poland in 2018.
In response, Russia said it would modernize a launch detection system in Crimea which would be able to detect hypersonic, ballistic and cruise missiles.
On 14 May, Putin slammed the Nato programme which US officials say will target the threat from Iran. The Russian president said: “The threat is gone, but the creation of the missile defence system is continuing.”
On 17 May, RAF typhoon jets were scrambled to intercept Russian planes over the Baltic for the second time in less than a week. The jets were initially shadowing two Su-27 Flanker fighters and an IL-20 “Coot-A” Reconnaissance aircraft close to Estonian airspace, when two more Su-27s were detected.