Three steps Europe needs to take NOW to fend off Putin’s chilling ‘credible’ plan to spark WW3 next year

Three steps Europe needs to take NOW to fend off Putin’s chilling ‘credible’ plan to spark WW3 next year

AS the world approaches the anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s bloody war in Ukraine, a hotbed of conflict is exploding around the globe.

Military analysts spoke to The Sun about how Europe might defeat the Russian despot before he has a chance to enact a bone-chilling plan to bring World War Three to the West.

Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline of Putin’s war

Nato military drills involving Swedish and Finnish troops in 2022

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had his armies invade Ukraine almost two years ago

Russia is tripling its defence spending this year and Ukraine’s resources are dwindling

As the world faces it’s “most dangerous moment” in history, General Sir Richard Barrons, former Joint Forces chief, thinks Europe needs to prioritise our efforts in Ukraine – and squash Putin.

He told The Sun that Putin poses “the biggest risk to our security”, as his ruthless attempts to absorb Ukraine edge ever closer to full-blown war.

And it comes just days after the dictator’s terrifying step-by-step plan for going to war with Nato was revealed in leaked intelligence documents.

By bolstering the resources sent to Ukraine from Europe, shoring up our cyber defences and military strength and combining the resources of Nato countries, Barrons thinks the West would win the war against Russia.

But it would come at an “enormous price”, he warned.

A recent poll of Brits showed that 73 per cent of voters still think it’s important the country supports Ukraine in its fight against Putin’s Red Army.

And just days ago, PM Rishi Sunak announced another £2.5billion in aid for Ukraine – helping to fund long range missiles, ammunition and an air defence system.

A Nato summit last year saw many countries make a renewed promise to help Ukraine with their security.

But the UK is the first Nato country to deliver on their final agreement of that promise.

The question is – will it be enough?

Strengthening NATO

German and Lithuanian troops take part in a Nato military drill

Experts say Ukraine needs the help of Europe to squash Russia (Ukrainian soldiers completing exercise drills)

General Barrons told The Sun: “Russia already sees this as a war with Nato.”

He warned that Putin’s military will “turn to face Nato when they aren’t quite so focused on Ukraine”.

And the West, he says, is facing some key choices where Europe “can afford to step up” in helping to defend Ukraine.

Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, was formed primarily as a military alliance and includes 31 member states.

Formed after the devastation of World War Two, its member states agree to defend each from outside attacks and an attack on one is seen as an attack on all.

In total, Nato’s combined armies make up more than 3.3 million military personnel – and a staggering defence budget of almost £1 trillion.

While member countries previously committed to spend two percent of their own GDP on defence efforts, including against Russia – not all of them have.

Member nation Estonia, who has been a vocal advocate of Nato funds for Ukraine, has lobbied its fellow member countries to funnel more money and supplies into fighting Putin.

This is why countries like Estonia argue that if every European country provided 0.5% of GDP to Ukraine, it would easily overmatch Russia

Richard Barrons

Barrons believes Ukraine needs around £50billion a year to fight the war – something the GDP of Europe and the US can “clearly afford” to fund.

He told The Sun: “This is why countries like Estonia, which has been very generous, argue that if every European country provided 0.5 per cent of GDP to Ukraine, it would easily overmatch Russia.”

Just before the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion last February, Estonian colonel Andrus Merilo tell The Sun that Ukraine had no choice but to defeat Putin – or else every Nato country could face Russia’s wrath.

As his forces carried out intense trench warfare exercises during Nato’s war games, Colonel Merilo said: “Ukraine has to win this war, there is no alternative, or any Nato nation is at risk.”

“It is now very clear that Russia is a threat to its neighbours,” he added.

“What we need is more readiness and communication towards the Russians that Nato is more than capable of holding them off.”

A year on, this message appears to be even more appropriate.

Nato cannot afford to drop the ball now

Richard Barrons

General Barrons said Nato countries first need to help Ukraine reestablish its physical land in the fight against Russia.

And Europe needs to help Zelenskyy’s forces in “taking quite a lot of territory back”.

Then, he says, Ukraine needs to be empowered to establish newfound security on its own terms.

Nato states also need to help “mobilise industry and money and training in support”, to help Ukraine do this.

Next week, Nato begins its biggest war games exercises since the Cold War – where some 90,000 troops from all member nations will gather in Europe to prepare for a Russian attack.

Barrons explained that the UK has historically encouraged Ukraine’s efforts to distance itself from Russian culture and to become part of Europe via EU and Nato membership.

“We agreed that Ukraine could give up its nuclear weapons and then be protected by us, which we failed to honour,” he said.

Barrons believes “it is in our interests” to help end the war.

And he thinks its outcome will have a significant impact on security for Europe and Nato.

If Putin wins, Ukraine will lose at least the almost 20 per cent of its land Russia currently occupies – and he will push forward with more aggression on it’s borders.

And former British tank commander Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon warned that if that were to happen, Putin wouldn’t stop there.

He told The Sun: “The scenario where Putin prevails in Ukraine, absolutely he’s going to keep going Westward.

“He sees himself as Peter the Great of the 21st century and Peter the great didn’t stop. He kept going West.”

On Thursday, Nato’s highest Military Committee met for a summit in Brussels.

General Christopher Cavoli insisted Nato is “ready” for Russian attacks.

And the organisations’ biggest War Games exercise since the end of the Cold War with 90,000 soldiers is set to begin in February.

Known as “Steadfast Defender” the idea is to prepare for a Russian attack.

Bolstering Europe and Ukraine’s war chest

A Ukrainian soldier firing a British NLAW missile in February 2022

Rishi Sunak recently committed another £2.5 billion in aid to Ukraine for defences against RussiaSIMON WALKER/No10/UNPIXS

A Ukrainian boy is shown how to use a rifle

When it comes to defeating Putin, an important piece of the puzzle lies in military resources.

Britain, Nato and the West need to have a well-stocked war chest if it is going to help Ukraine quash the despot’s relentless efforts, experts have said.

And Ukraine’s own supplies are dwindling in light of the war in the Middle East – dampening Israel’s support as they face their own doorstep bloodshed.

Zelensky has made repeated bids for support in building up Ukraine’s armour over the last two years.

Europe and the US have sent money, tanks, jets, ammunition and delivered training.

Back and forth has been had over which materials and just how much financial support Nato should send.

And just days after Hamas’ brutal attacks in Israel on October 7 last year, Zelensky appeared at a meeting with over 50 Nato defence leaders to make a personal bid.

He said he had wondered if military support for Ukraine would suffer in light of the supplies and money being sent to Israel from the US and Europe.

The president admitted: “Of course, everybody’s afraid, and I think also Russia’s counting on it, on dividing support.”

Zelensky pushed for the air-defence systems and long-range missiles that Sunak’s recently committed £2.5 billion will likely go to funding.

But will it be enough?

Barrons told The Sun that help from Nato countries so far has only prevented Russian expansion in Ukraine, just helping Zelensky keep things at bay.

“For Ukraine to defeat its much larger opponent it has to acquire the military capability to defeat it on the battlefield,” he said.

“This includes striking into Russia.”

The EU, which has promised Ukraine one million artillery rounds by around the end of 2023, has barely given 300,000.

Barrons said: “That is about 10 days supply for Ukraine at the rate of use it needs.”

After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, the West failed to provide Ukraine with enough capability; weapons, ammunition, training, and other support

Richard Barrons

He also explains that Russia tripled its defence spending this year, and that “when the shooting in Ukraine stops, almost whatever the outcome, Russia will have larger and probably better Armed Forces than it had in February 2022”.

“This is why Nato cannot afford to drop the ball now,” he said.

When Grant Shapps made a speech describing the world as “pre-war” last week, emphasising the need to up British defences, he did not lay out a specific plan.

No detailing of military spending, no discussion of new tanks or weapons or ammo. Let alone soldiers.

He did say that the UK plans to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of our GDP when its affordable.

But Barrons thinks UK politicians need to refocus their immediate priorities – putting the conflict with Russia at the “top of the list”.

“Russia is trying to reassert its sphere of influence, its Russian empire on European territory,” he said.

“It is largely the biggest risk to our security.”

He also explained that following Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, the West failed to support Ukraine sufficiently.

“The West failed to provide Ukraine with enough capability; weapons, ammunition, training, and other support to deter the subsequent Russian invasion,” he said.

“This means that everything we have seen since February 2022 is an avoidable emergency response to a situation that could have been prevented far more cheaply.”

Now, he says, is the time to funnel money into Nato defence efforts.

In a Western war with Russia, Barrons said “the West would win, but the price would be enormous”.

If we’re going to have to fight the Russians we’ll need a hell of a lot more. We need to have a really strong and capable defence

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon

But he warns that if we back off now, we are “handing a stranglehold on our economy” to those who want to take advantage.

Mr de Bretton-Gordon told The Sun: “When I joined the army in the late 80s we had 500 tanks, we now have barely 100.

“It is a timely wake up call… if British politicians get the defence wrong then everything else is horrifically irrelevant.”

He warned that the UK needs a lot more ammo in its stocks than it currently has.

“[Russia] is churning out all this ammunition, whereas Nato and the West are trying to restore our ammunition stocks back to a reasonable level,” he said.

“If we’re going to have to fight the Russians we’ll need a hell of a lot more. We need to have a really strong and capable defence.”

He added that while the conflict in the Middle East and Asia is cause for serious concern – our most prominent threat is Russia.

“For Britain our threat is coming from the East, not the Middle East.

“Russia is the direct threat to this country.”

Russia has its own large defence industry and is looking at producing “about two million artillery rounds a year by the end of 2024”.

General Barrons points out that North Korea are also supplying weapons for Putin – as are Iran who are giving drones, missiles and ballistic missiles.

He explained that the first two years of the war were largely supported by Western equipment and ammunition.

But now those stores are much thinner, and Ukraine needs a “bigger defence industrial base” on its own turf.

He adds that the US is less able to provide the level of support it once did – and Europe will have to do more.

And former Royal Navy chief Admiral Lord West told The Sun: “If we let Ukraine be completely swallowed up by Russia, and Putin is able to claim a huge victory… he might be tempted to do something stupid.

“If he did anything stupid against Nato, Nato would respond which would be extremely dangerous.”

“If things escalated and there was a war…we definitely would be involved.”

Strengthening Europe’s cybersecurity

Russia has used cyber hacking to attack the West before – and it’s part of Putin’s chilling Nato battle plan

NHS ventilators that provide life-saving treatments were targeted by Russian hackers

One of the ways Russia targets the West is via our technology.

In Britain, Kremlin-backed gangs including KillNet, Clop and Fancy Bears have focused their dangerous attacks on personal data, the NHS and even the Royal Family.

And allies of Ukraine, including Britain, America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have warned against Putin using the cyber army to attack their crucial systems.

Putin wouldn’t officially endorse his army of shadowy hackers, but the steady stream of anti-west propaganda and subtle support for Russian hacking does plenty.

General Barrons told The Sun that over the last ten years a more “novel” tactic of war has come about through the Digital Age and social media.

“Now every adult carries a mobile phone, or is always at least, connected to the internet,” he said.

“We are dealing with a toxic mix of new threats that can manifest in new, very harmful ways: missiles, cyber, AI-run weapon systems, and drones.”

He said it creates an opportunity to put “information in the mind of everybody whether that information is true or not”.

“It is a tool of influence and destabilisation,” he added.

Defence and security for Britain, Europe and Ukraine therefore means being resilient even at home.

Cybersecurity is one of the things that need to be tightened up if we are to fight off the threat of Russia.

We are dealing with a toxic mix of new threats that can manifest in new, very harmful ways: missiles, cyber, AI-run weapon systems, and drones

Richard Barrons

General Barrons explains that Russian cyber attacks focus on “daily life and the continuity of government”, manipulating the way people “think and feel”.

This, he says, is a powerful weapon against democratic countries because we “lack the resilience” to fend them off.

“We have created freedoms for ourselves that make us all so vulnerable,” he said.

In Putin’s horror war plan, July next year sees an attack on the West using a flurry of cyber and hybrid warfare techniques.

Not only do they target us, but they wreak havoc in other Baltic states like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – one of Ukraine’s biggest advocates.

As war looms in Europe and the risk of WW3 rises, the Baltic countries unveiled plans to bolster defences on their borders with Russia and Belarus.

It is feared that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could see Russian troops going beyond Ukrainian borders to launch attacks on Europe – forcing NATO to join the war.

Russia’s warmongering foreign minister Sergei Lavrov vowed a “New World Order” was emerging and promised the West that their time of “global domination” was over.

Admiral Rob Bauer, chief of NATO’s military committee, called on the West to “prepare for an era of war”.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have now agreed to build a series of bunkers on their borders with Russia and Belarus to protect their forces in the event of an attack.

Baltic states are seen as most at risk from a potential Russian attack as they share their border with Russia and its ally Belarus.

Rocket launchers fire during Belarusian and Russian joint military drills

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