Russia: British general warns accidental war with Moscow a grave possibility

Britain’s most senior defence chief has gravely warned of the danger of a “miscalculation” that could cause Russia to go to war.

The risk of a “miscalculation” that could lead to an accidental war between Russia and the West is even greater than it was during the Cold War, a senior British general has revealed.

General Sir Nick Carter, who is the chief of the UK’s armed forces, shared the warning at the same time as Moscow was being accused of massing troops on the border of Ukraine.

He said that while he hoped there would not be a “hot war” with Russia, and he doubted President Vladimir Putin wanted one, such an eventuality could not be ruled out.

“We’re in a much more competitive world than we were even 10 or 15 years ago. And I think the nature of the competition between states and great powers, leads to greater tensions,” Gen Carter told the UK’s Times Radio on Sunday.

“That tension is the thing that one needs to watch for.”

Gen Carter said the current “multipolar world” was far more unpredictable than the “bipolar” rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States that characterised the Cold War during the latter half of the 20th century.

“We then went into a period where it was unipolar, and the United States was entirely pre-eminent,” he said on Times Radio

“Now we’re into a period where it’s more multipolar, and I think in a multipolar world with people competing for different objectives and on different agendas, there’s a greater risk of tension leading to the sorts of things that we are talking about.”

‘Miscalculation’ could lead to war with Russia

He said that Russia was now a greater threat to nations in Eastern Europe – which were once part of the Soviet Union or were its satellite states – than at any time during his eight years in the role or indeed during the Cold War itself.

“Many of the traditional diplomatic tools and mechanisms that I grew up with in the Cold War; these are no longer there,” he said.

“And without those tools and mechanisms there is a greater risk that these escalations could lead to miscalculation.”

On the weekend, Gen Carter did the rounds of British media, a few weeks before he is due to retire from his role leading the armed forces.

‘Hot war’ a possibility

Talking to Sky News UK, he said “in a way” Russia regarded itself as already in a war with the West in so much as it was using the tools at its disposal in a struggle for global power.

“The question, of course, is how you define war and I, as a soldier, would tend to define war as the actual act of combat and fighting, and I don’t think they want that,” he said.

“They don’t want a hot war. I think they want to try and achieve their objective in rather more nuanced ways.”

Asked on the BBC whether a hot war was nonetheless a risk, Gen Carter said it couldn’t be ruled out.

“I think we have to be on our guard and make sure deterrence prevails and critically we have to make sure there is unity in the NATO alliance and we don’t allow any gaps to occur in our collective position.”

The general said that Russia was engaging in a “hybrid playbook” of tactics including disinformation and destabilisation and “classic distraction”.

“The idea of pushing migrants on to the European Union’s borders is a classic example of that sort of thing,” he said.

Belarus, close to Moscow and often referred to as Europe’s last dictatorship, has allowed thousands of migrants to cross its territory to head towards the EU’s external border at Poland.

Several migrants have died in the freezing conditions on the Belarus-Poland border.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has been accused of creating the crisis, with Russia’s help, to put pressure on the EU and prevent further sanctions.

But Mr Putin has defended his ally’s actions.

“Let’s not forget where these crises with migrants came from,” he said.

“Is Belarus a pioneer in these problems? No, the reasons were created by Western and European countries themselves,” he said on the weekend.

However, a threat by Belarus to block Russian gas supplies to the West, which use pipelines through its territory, was swiftly squashed by Moscow on the weekend.

Russia’s anger with the West

Moscow has long been angry at the West’s embrace of the former Soviet republics and one-time communist countries, like Poland.

The borders of the EU now directly abut Russia and NATO forces are based in countries like Estonia, nations which Moscow once controlled.

Another flashpoint is Ukraine. A war in 2014 saw two eastern regions fall to Russian-backed rebels. Crimea, a Russian-speaking region of Ukraine and the site of a major Russian naval base, was annexed by Moscow the same year.

There are now claims Russia is massing troops close to Ukraine amid fears another invasion – either directly or through rebels – could be in the offing.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed as many as 100,000 Russian troops were gathering in the vicinity of Ukraine.

His comments followed the release of video which appeared to show Russian tanks, armoured vehicles and soldiers massing near the city of Voronezh – 300km from the Ukrainian border.

The vehicles, which include a battalion of T-80U main battle tanks, are understood to have been brought down from the Moscow area.

Other clips show tanks being carried by train close to the city, while further footage shows a line of military troop-carrying trucks travelling down a highway in Bryansk around 160km from the border.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the White House as being “very concerned” about the potential “attempted rehash” of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, which used to be part of the Soviet Union.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed Western media reports that Moscow has intentions to invade Ukraine as a “hollow and unfounded attempt to incite tensions”.

He said: “Russia doesn’t threaten anyone. The movement of troops on our territory shouldn’t be a cause for anyone’s concern.”

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