The UK’s armed forces boss who is leaving his role said Britain has to be ready for war with Russia.
Gen Sir Nick Carter’s comments come amid rising tensions in central and eastern Europe – with Poland and Belarus arguing over refugees and Russian troops potentially gathering along Ukraine’s border.
Ahead of his departure at the end of November, Carter warned Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat in the eastern region than he was eight years ago when he started the role.
And he said NATO has to be ready in case a physical war erupts – although he doubts this would happen.
Speaking on Sky News, Carter said: “Russia probably regards the global strategic context as a continuous struggle in which, I think, they would apply all the instruments of national power to achieve their objectives. But in so doing, [the Russians] don’t want to bring on a hot war.”
He later told BBC’s Andrew Marr that Russia was in a “hybrid playbook where you link disinformation to destabilisation and the idea of pushing migrants on to the European Union’s borders is a classic example of that sort of thing”.
Asked whether there could be a shooting war, Carter said: “I don’t know. 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.”
Liz Truss, UK’s foreign secretary, said this weekend that Putin has to intervene in the “shameful manufactured migrant crisis” unfolding at the Belarusian border.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, she said Russia has a “clear responsibility” to end the rising migrant crisis, and warned the UK “will not look away”.
A big number of migrants are currently in a Belarusian border camp, and Poland has been reporting daily attempts by migrants to cross the border.
The government of Belarus said the migrant situation did not justify Poland’s “unprecedented” military presence at the border, which involves 15,000 troops backed by tanks, air defence assets and other weapons.
Meanwhile, Truss asked Kremlin to intervene in the crisis, writing: “Russia has a clear responsibility here. It must press the Belarusian authorities to end the crisis and enter into dialogue.”
She argued the current situation shows “the latest step by the Lukashenko regime to undermine regional security.”
“He is using desperate migrants as pawns in his bid to create instability and cling on to power, regardless of the human cost,” she wrote.
She added: “The United Kingdom will not look away. We will stand with our allies in the region, who are on the frontier of freedom.”