This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Britain’s most senior military officer has warned about the changing “character of warfare,” saying in an interview that the world faces the greatest risk in decades of a “miscalculation” that could lead to war between Russia and the West.
General Nick Carter, chief of the British Defense Staff, cited the willingness of authoritarian foes to use any means, including migrants, gas prices, proxies, or cyberattacks, to achieve their aims on the international stage.
In an interview with Times Radio to be broadcast on November 14, Carter said that “traditional diplomatic tools and mechanisms” available during the Cold War and an era of unipolar U.S. dominance were gone.
“Without those tools and mechanisms there is a greater risk that these escalations or this escalation could lead to miscalculation,” he said. “So I think that’s the real challenge we have to be confronted with.”
His comments come with tensions high on EU member Poland’s border with Belarus, where Minsk ally Russia has launched nuclear-capable bomber patrols in the past week as thousands of Middle Eastern migrants are congregated in hopes of reaching the West.
They also reflect direct strains between Moscow and NATO over Ukraine, where Kremlin-backed separatists are fighting a seven-year war, and the Black Sea region that includes Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, raised the stakes in his rhetoric on November 13.
Lukashenka told Russia’s National Defense magazine that he wants Russia to deploy its nuclear-capable Iskander missile systems in the south of his country near the border with Ukraine and in the west near Belarus’s borders with Poland and Lithuania.
Lukashenka said he needed “several divisions” of the Iskander mobile-ballistic-missile system “in the west and the south,” adding that Russia should “let them stay” there.
The Iskander system has a range of up to 500 kilometers. It can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.
Lukashenka did not indicate whether he has had any talks with Moscow about receiving the missile system. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a stark warning to the United States and NATO on November 13 by saying their activities in the Black Sea represented a “serious challenge” to Russia.
U.S. and European officials have repeatedly cautioned of a threat of Russian military attack, citing Russian troop buildups near its border with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russian mercenaries are fighting in central Africa, Russian intelligence has been accused of high-profile assassinations abroad, Belarus has threatened to block Russian gas supplies to Western Europe, and groups with ties to Russian intelligence have been fingered for major cyberattacks on Western targets in recent years.
British Typhoon fighters reportedly escorted two Russian military aircraft out of the United Kingdom’s area of interest on November 12.
London also said it had deployed a small team of British military personnel for potential “engineering support” on Poland’s borders.
Carter concluded that the changing “character of warfare” means “we have to be careful that people don’t end up allowing the bellicose nature of some of our politics to end up in a position where escalation leads to miscalculation.”