According to a Gallup poll, Russia’s anti-American sentiment has reached the highest level since the end of the Cold War. In April, Moscow threatened nuclear war to drive NATO out of Baltics. Russia is concerned about NATO’s growing influence, especially in the Baltic states like Estonia. The U.S. is deploying heavy military equipment in Estonia to counter any Russian aggression.
The precursor to World War 3
Western policymakers fear that Russia could do the same thing in Estonia that it did in eastern Ukraine last year. Estonia, though a NATO member, has a large Russian minority served by Russian state media. If things in Estonia escalate, it could spiral out into a full-fledged World War 3. Javier Zarracina of Vox has illustrated all the possibilities, the decisions that Russia and the U.S. might make, and where these decisions would take the world.
If Moscow stirs up ethnic Russian minority in Estonia, NATO will have two options: either deploy military muscle to deter Russian invasion or stay calm. In either case, there is possibility that the pro-Russian protests would dissipate, leading to peace. But what if Russia warns of impending genocide? Clashes may lead to more violence. The pro-Russian minority could take over the city of Narva.
NATO will be treaty-bound to protect Estonia’s sovereignty and retake Narva. The violence could escalate into an open conflict. In that case, Germany may veto any NATO action due to fear of World War 3. Inability to protect its member states would dissolve NATO. Earlier this year, the U.S. Army Europe Commander Ben Hodges said Russia wanted to destroy NATO, not by attacking it, but by splintering it.
NATO may eventually invade Russia
The end of NATO alliance will allow Russia to dominate Eastern Europe once again. But the United States, arguably the most powerful member of NATO, is not going to give in to Russians. And Russian President Vladimir Putin has proved that he is not the one to back off. Putin revealed in March that Russia was fully prepared to use nuclear weapons against any country that came in its way of annexing Crimea.
So, Russia could overtly invade and seize Estonia even before the U.S. troops arrive in sufficient numbers to defend it. Such a move could trigger a direct war between NATO and Russia. Sensing the Western military alliance’s conventional superiority, Moscow may attack NATO from within Russia. In response, NATO may invade Russia. And then Moscow may deploy tactical nuclear weapons. What’s next? World War 3. It may turn into a full-blown nuclear war with destructive consequences.