Russia puts the planet on brink of World War III

It's always nice to be right about something, while other times you just simply wish you had been wrong. In my Jan. 9 column, I wrote about the possibility of war with Russia and Ukraine that could boil over into something much worse. Well that war in Ukraine became a full-on, bloody war Thursday, Feb. 24.

Sunday Feb. 27, the heat was again ratcheted up as Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with his top officials. He told his defense minister and the chief of the military's General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a special regime of combat readiness. He added in a televised statement: “Western countries aren't only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country.”

However, it didn't take long for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield to respond. She denounced Putin's move, saying “It was a totally unacceptable escalation.” She added, “The United Nations here and around the world will use every possible lever we have at our disposal to expose his actions. President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable, and we have to continue to condemn his actions in the strongest possible way.”

Although the Ukrainian military has fought with valor to defend their homeland, the real problem is that no one knows what Putin's end game actually is. He's made it quite clear that he would like to rebuild the old USSR that fell apart after the Berlin Wall came down, and he feels Mother Russia has the right to seek out its former glory.

Although it appears Putin's decision to invade Ukraine was thought out fairly well, and he intends to be successful in every respect, he never expected to have the entire world turn against him and his invasion in a matter of days. Quickly he warned the world in a chilling speech to remain hands-off, stating: “Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia's response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history. We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made.”

As Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are not part of NATO, Putin could see a clear opportunity to redraw the lines of Europe without much military intervention, as the odds of any country with a strong military coming to their defenses are slim and none, and he would have an open hand to operate as he sees fit.

With the military force Putin has assembled, and having no major military to stop him, it's not hard to believe he would turn southwest to invade Moldova and Georgia after capturing Ukraine. That type of threat is the very reason most former Warsaw Block countries argued to become a part of NATO. Their governments understood it was essential to acquire a good insurance policy to assure their futures, knowing at some point, a Russian leader would do exactly what Putin is attempting, so as to rebuild the former USSR.

Now they are all protected by Article 5 of the alliance that makes it perfectly clear, an attack on any one of the thirty member nations of NATO, is an attack on all members.

So the stage is set, the cards have been dealt, Putin's holding his cards close to his vest, not asking for any new cards, because he holds what he needs, the world be damned.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov followed up Putin's threat, warning the world that if a third world war were to occur, it would involve nuclear weapons and be destructive. Russia's RIA news agency reported Lavrov's comments came after he told a Geneva disarmament meeting that Ukraine had been seeking nuclear weapons.

The leaders of the free world fully realize that with the drop of the right cards, World War III will be upon us, and there'll be no turning back.

— This is the opinion of Gerry Feld, whose column is published the second Sunday of the month. He writes about issues from a conservative perspective and is a published novelist.

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Russia puts the planet on brink of World War III