Here’s a safe prediction: World War Three is not, in fact, going to break out over western arms shipments to Ukraine.
Despite what Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has to say on the matter:
Russia warned of the “real” threat of World War III breaking out, ahead of today’s meeting between the United States and allies over sending further weapons to Ukraine.
Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour has triggered an outburst of support from Western nations that has seen weapons pour into the country to help it wage war against Russian troops.
But Western powers have been reluctant to deepen their involvement, for fear of sparking a conflict against nuclear-armed Russia.
Speaking to Russian news agencies, Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the risk of a World War III “is serious” and criticised Kyiv’s approach to struggling peace talks.
For a third world war to break out, there would have to be, at the very minimum, direct military confrontation between Russian forces on one side, and the forces of NATO on the other. NATO has repeatedly stated (to the disappointment of the Ukrainians) that it will not directly engage in conflict with the Russians.
Readers may recall, in fact, that in the early weeks of the war, Ukraine demanded, time and again, the establishment of a NATO “no fly” zone over Ukraine. NATO said no to that on the basis that any enforcement of such a zone would risk the prospect of NATO planes shooting down Russian planes, and therefore, risk a wider war.
There is no evidence at all – nor any logical reason – for thinking that NATO is suddenly going to confront the Russians now. Why would they? The Ukrainians seem to be doing a good job of, at the very minimum, holding the Russian advances to a trickle, and inflicting a high cost on the Russians. Why would NATO intervene? This map has not meaningfully changed in weeks now, despite constant Russian shelling and attacks:
The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing.
The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 26 April 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/9Xi445WlUd
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) April 26, 2022
Which leaves only one other possibility: That it might be the Russians who start a fight with NATO. The problem with that proposition is that while we might consider Mr. Putin many things, he does not appear to be insane. His armies are presently bogged down in eastern and southern Ukraine and struggling to make meaningful gains against a Ukrainian army that is fighting, mainly, with outdated Soviet-era equipment.
How does even the most optimistic Russian think that a war against a much larger, and better-equipped NATO might proceed, at the same time as the Ukrainian front is stalled?
Russia clearly wants to discourage western weapons systems shipments to the Ukrainians, but that is highly unlikely to work, because, ironically, of Russia’s own military struggles. Had the Russians made sweeping advances in this war, they would be in a strong position to deter the west. “See?”, they could say: “Our forces have crushed Ukraine. Take your noses out of this, or they might crush the Baltic states too”.
Now, that, eh, seems… unlikely. Which is why the Russians are left only with the threat of Nuclear War, which would be as devastating for them as it would be for everybody else. The west, meanwhile, has no incentive at all to stop arming the Ukrainians: The more hostile Russia sounds, and the more belligerent noises it makes, the more sense it makes for the west to have the Ukrainians bleed them dry of trained men and useable equipment. Every tank the Russians lose in Donestk is one that will never fight in Riga, or Warsaw.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying: This is bluster from Lavrov, and from the Russians. The “nuclear annihilation” card is about the only one they have left to play from the deck, which is why the invasion was such a silly idea in the first place. They should have learned this lesson in Afghanistan, in the 1980s.
All of which explains why the following will happen: NATO and the west will continue arming Ukraine, will not attack Russia, and will dare the Russians to do something about it. The Russians have gotten themselves stuck in a Ukrainian bear-trap. If WW3 does start, it will be their choice, and nobody else’s.