Russia’s top military commander has warned of nuclear war with NATO
Russian General Nikolai Makarov said NATOs eastward expansion meant the risk of Russia being dragged into conflicts had risen sharply. General Makarov is the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia , the highest military post of the Russian armed forces.
Many Eastern European countries which used to be part of the Warsaw Pact, a former Soviet sphere of influence, have since joined NATO, an issue which irritated Russia. Russia believes NATO is ganging up with these countries to encircle its western border.
The General said: The possibility of local armed conflicts along nearly the whole border has increased dramatically. In certain conditions, I do not rule out local and regional armed conflicts developing into a large-scale war, including using nuclear weapons.
Among those countries who have swapped the Warsaw Pact for Nato are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Russia is also at odds with the U.S. over plans for an American missile defence shield in Europe.
The European missile shield problem is quite serious today, General Makarov, 62, said.
Russia also has deeply strained relations with Georgia after a 2008 war over two disputed provinces. Georgia is actively seeking Nato membership. General Makarov specifically referred to NATO’s plans to offer membership to Georgia and Ukraine as potentially threatening to Russia.
The nation’s military doctrine says it may use nuclear weapons to counter a nuclear attack on Russia or an ally, or a large-scale conventional attack that threatens Russia’s existence. Russia sees NATO’s expansion to include former Soviet republics and ex-members of the Soviet bloc in eastern and central Europe as a key threat to Russia’s security.
General Makarov was a former platoon commander for the Communist Soviet Army in East Germany and has served in many posts in strategically sensitive areas for Moscow. During the USSR era, he served with Soviet forces in Siberia, and after the fall of the Red flag was chief of staff of a Russian forces in Tajikistan.
The General is an ally of Vladimir Putin. His strong words yesterday come ahead of political changes in Russia which are likely to see Putin return to power in the Kremlin as president. Putin, a former Soviet KGB agent, has increasingly grown hostile towards the West.
The collapse of USSR in early 1990s saw Russia emerged as a bankrupted and weak state, and was treated as a defeated power by NATO. Since then NATO not only gobbled up former Russian satellite states in Eastern Europe, but also bombed Yugoslavia, Russia’s closest ally in Europe, in 1998.
Putin strengthened Russia economy and restored its global influence
Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president in 2000. Under his reign the Russian economy increased by 6 fold, becoming the 7th largest in the world. Under Putin, Russian industry grew by 76%, investments increased by 125%, real incomes more than doubled and the average monthly salary increased sevenfold from $80 to $640. From 2000 to 2006 the volume of consumer credit increased 45 times and the middle class grew from 8 million to 55 million people. The number of people living below the poverty line decreased from 30% in 2000 to 14% in 2008.
In his 8 years governance, Putin had largely restored Russian military might and influence. He formed alliance with North Korea, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, effectively securing Russian eastern and southern borders.
The Russia now and 20 years ago is of stark contrast. The country is no longer poor - it has built up $516 billion in foreign reserves, the world’s third largest; only after China and Japan. Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil exporter, given that it is also the world’s largest gas exporter, the Russia today is an energy superpower. Russia, a strong scientific, aerospace and engineering nation, is widely believed to possess the world’s second most advanced military after the USA.
Putin signed the formation of SCO with China and other four Central Asian states in 2001. The SCO is seen as a counterbalance to NATO alliance.
Putin’s almost-certain return to presidency next year would also see a different type of world than it was 10 years ago, with the global balance of power shifted as the EU weakened and drowned in economic disaster and ally China on its way to eclipse US as the world no.1 economic power. It can be interesting how Putin would steer Russian role in a changed world.
Will Putin clash with the West upon returning to power in 2012?