Gen Sir Richard Shirreff remembers the moment he realised Nato was facing a new and more dangerous Russia. It was 19 March 2014, the day after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Shirreff, then deputy supreme allied commander Europe, was at Nato’s military HQ in Mons, Belgium, when an American two-star general came in with the transcript of Putin’s speech justifying the annexation. “He briefed us and said: ‘I think this just might be a paradigm-shifting speech’, and I think he might have been right,” Shirreff recalled. The Russian president’s address aired a long list of grievances, with the west’s attempts to contain Russia in the 18th to 20th centuries right at the top. Putin said: “They have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happened with Nato’s expansion to the east, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders.” He warned that Russia would no longer tolerate such pressure: “If you press the spring it will release at some point. That is something you should remember.” Warnings of a return to cold war politics have been a staple of European debate for three years, but in recent… Read full this story
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