World War III threat in 18 months: the Baltic States are the first target

Kremlin, Moscow
Kremlin, Moscow Reuters/Scanpix

Germany’s fears that Russia could start an all-out war are well-founded, according to a former commander of the United States military in Europe, who believes that Vladimir Putin will do the unthinkable if he suspects that NATO is unprepared. It was reported in the TV3 news portal, that retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges believes that if countries do not take the Russian threat seriously and act together, World War III could break out in as little as 18 months.

His comments come after secret documents from the German defence ministry provided a step-by-step doomsday guide on how Russia can escalate the conflict in Ukraine and turn it into an even bigger battle, the Daily Mail reports.

The road to World War III

Leaked plans published by the German newspaper Bild detail the road to World War III, with Putin using Belarus as a launch pad for an invasion – just as he did in February 2022 when he fought in Ukraine.

Retired US Army Brigadier General Kevin Ryan agreed that the threat is real, adding that NATO’s unpreparedness could spur war.

The horrifying documents come just days after Sweden’s Minister of Civil Defence warned that his country could soon face the prospect of war and urged citizens to join voluntary defence organisations in preparation for a Russian attack.

However, Ben Hodges, who commanded the US military in Europe from 2014-2018, stressed that the prospect of open war would only arise if Russia felt that NATO was not ready or united.

He said: “They [Russia] respect only force. If they sense weakness, then they will keep moving forward. If they did, it would be because they assessed that we were not ready or united within the alliance or did not have enough ammunition or the ability to move fast enough. But if we are ready, they still have a long way to go”.

He added that while this may seem frightening, the plans laid out by Germany show that it takes the threat seriously.

Preparation is essential

“The best way to prevent war is to show that you are ready for it”, he said.

The UK has always been aware of the Russian threat, but now Germany realises it will only worsen if they are unprepared. So, preparedness – with all the necessary equipment and capabilities – is precisely what countries should be doing. And Germany is doing it.

B. Hodges added: “If the civilian leadership doesn’t think there’s a threat, it won’t be able to act fast enough. Our leaders should be talking to us as adults. That doesn’t mean you are scared; it means you take precautions, which is what we should be doing”.

German defence chiefs are also taking the threat from Moscow seriously, and the Bundeswehr is preparing for a hybrid Russian attack on NATO’s eastern flank by summer 2025 if Ukraine loses the war.

The secret document Alliance Defence 2025, which is a German exercise scenario, details how Russia will mobilise an additional 200,000 troops in Russia before launching a spring offensive against Ukrainian forces this spring.

B. Hodges added that in its current state, the Kremlin is not, in his view, strong enough to assemble the troops and equipment needed to wage a full-scale war.

“The Kremlin does not have that capability at the moment,” he said. – But if we fail to help Ukraine, that could change. And then it is a genuine possibility”.

Cyber-attacks and incitement to violence in the Baltics

The leaked documents outline that with declining Western support and arms by June, Russia will have succeeded on the battlefield and made significant progress through Ukraine.

Taking advantage of this success, in July, Putin will launch cyber-attacks in the Baltic States and, at the same time, incite violence in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, claiming that ethnic Russian minorities are targeting him.

Putin’s cronies had already used this tactic to justify their attack on Ukraine in 2014 and again in 2022 when Russia launched a full-scale invasion.

Russian interference would lead to clashes in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and Putin would use this as an excuse to launch a large-scale exercise before September, sending 50,000 Russian troops to Belarus and western Russia.

A month later, Putin would go one step further and move troops and medium-range missiles to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania.

At the same time, Putin and his cronies would continue to manipulate information and claim that NATO is preparing to attack Russia and is a threat to their national security.

Main target – Suwalki Corridor

However, Putin’s main objective will be to attack the narrow strip of land known as the Suwałki Corridor. Poland and Lithuania fought for control of this area, but today, it belongs to Poland and is the only land border between mainland Europe and the Baltic States.

Even a minor attack on this area between Poland, Lithuania and Kaliningrad could cause significant problems for NATO and possibly escalate into World War III.

The outbreak of the war in Ukraine has heightened fears of an invasion of the Baltic States, and if Putin were to try to do so, his first step would probably be to block the Suwałki Corridor, as indicated in leaked secret documents.

Although thousands of NATO troops are currently deployed in the Baltics, they are intended only as a rear-guard force. They hold back invading forces until the main NATO force arrives.

Attack on NATO territory

Taking advantage of the chaos that will ensue if Joe Biden loses the presidential election and the US is left without a leader for several weeks, Putin will launch an offensive on NATO territory, according to the German exercise plan.

Shortly afterwards, at an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Moscow would accuse the West of preparing to attack Russia, according to the documents.

In the fateful scenario, NATO would convene a special meeting in January 2025, at which Poland and the Baltic countries would report the growing Russian threat and ask for help.

But Russia would take advantage of the chaos, and in March 2025, the Kremlin would bring more troops to the Baltic States and Belarus.

By the end of the month, Putin would have amassed 70,000 troops consisting of two tank divisions, a mechanised infantry division and a divisional headquarters.

Two months later, in May 2025, NATO would reconvene to discuss the growing Russian threat to its security and decide on a credible deterrent to stop any Russian attack on the Suwalki corridor from the direction of Belarus and Kaliningrad.

According to leaked documents, on an undisclosed date dubbed “Day X”, NATO will deploy 300,000 troops on its eastern flank to defend against an imminent Russian attack.

It is unclear from the documents whether the deployment of NATO forces would deter Russia, as the scenario ends 30 days after Day X.

It is essential to consider all possible scenarios

A spokesman for the German defence ministry told Bild that he did not want to comment on a specific NATO defence scenario. Still, he said, “In principle, I can say that considering different scenarios, even if they are doubtful, is part of everyday military activity, especially training”.

The horrifying documents were published after the Estonian Prime Minister warned that Europe has three to five years to prepare for Russia becoming a severe military threat on NATO’s eastern flank again.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told the Times: “Our intelligence estimate is that it will take three to five years, and that will depend very much on how we manage our unity and our position on Ukraine. Russia wants a pause, and this pause is to build up its resources and strength. Weakness provokes the aggressors, so weakness provokes Russia”.

This warning came just days after Sweden’s Minister of Civil Defence warned that his country could soon face the prospect of war.

The United Kingdom has pledged to help

British troops from the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army, and troops from 31 other Member States and Sweden, a candidate country for the Transatlantic Alliance, will participate in the alliance’s latest exercise, Steadfast Defender, across Europe and beyond.

“Today, NATO is bigger than ever, but so are the challenges,” said British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps in a speech in London, in which he warned that the international rules-based order is increasingly under threat.

“That is why the UK has committed all its air, land and sea forces to NATO”, he continued.

“In 2024, I am determined to do even more, which is why I can announce today that the UK will send around 20,000 troops to lead one of the largest NATO deployments since the end of the Cold War.”

The world order is being shaken to its foundations

The UK contingent will consist of fighter and surveillance aircraft, state-of-the-art naval warships and submarines, and a wide range of military capabilities, including Special Operations Forces.

London will deploy an aircraft carrier strike group, including its flagship aircraft carrier and F-35B fighter jets and helicopters, for exercises in the North Atlantic, Norwegian, and Baltic Sea.

In the meantime, some 16,000 troops will be deployed across Eastern Europe between next month and June, bringing with them tanks, artillery, helicopters and parachutes.

“Our adversaries are intensively rebuilding their defences, old enemies are being reborn, battle lines are being redrawn, tanks are standing right on Ukraine’s lawn, and the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their foundations,” said Mr Shapps.

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