Donald Trump faces the dilemma of whether defending a Baltic NATO member against Vladimir Putin is worth sparking World War III, an influential defense expert has claimed.
A third world war is set to be ignited in Latvia if the United States comes to the rescue of the Baltic country, according to Professor Paul D. Miller.
The respected expert from the National Defense University in Washington, DC, predicted the invasion of Crimea in 2014.
And now the professor believes Latvia or possibly neighboring Estonia is next on Russia’s hit list.
But since the Baltic nations are in NATO, all members are compelled to come to its rescue under Article Five of an alliance treaty — which would spark World War III.
The warning comes as Russian strongman Vladimir Putin claimed today he was mending broken ties with Trump-led America following his annexation of Crimea and continuing support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
During his campaign, Trump expressed reservations about pitching in to help NATO allies.
But Miller believes Putin would not invade the tiny country of 2 million people with conventional troops.
Instead, the hard-line Russian leader would incite civil unrest among ethnic Russians who make up 25 percent of the population.
“He will not send large formations of uniformed Russian soldiers over the international border — even the most cautious NATO members will not ignore an overt conventional invasion,” Miller writes for Foreignpolicy.com.
“Instead, Putin will instigate an ambiguous militarized crisis using deniable proxies, probably in the next two years.”
“Perhaps Russian-speaking Latvians or Estonians will begin rioting, protesting for their rights, claiming to be persecuted, asking for ‘international protection.’”
“A suspiciously well-armed and well-trained ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of the Russian Baltics’ will appear.”
“A few high-profile assassinations and bombings bring the Baltics to the edge of civil war.”
“A low-grade insurgency may emerge.”
After using its veto at the UN to block an international peacekeeping force, Miller predicts Putin will intervene under the pretext of settling the conflict.
Observers agree that Putin’s Russia favors “hybrid warfare” over conventional attacks.
This blend of unconventional and conventional war can involve agents or militias not officially attached to a country’s forces.
Sometimes it aims to create a climate that justifies military intervention.
This underhand technique is said to have been used to seize Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Agents are said to have whipped up tension among Crimeans of Russian heritage and under a pretext of helping them, Russia annexed the Black Sea nation.
Elsewhere, Moscow is accused of sponsoring militias for their ends.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has accused Putin of conspiring to murder him in a sinister bid to curtail NATO power.
Prosecutors in the Balkan state have revealed explosive claims that nationalists from Russia hatched a plan to have a sniper shoot dead the leader as part of a coup attempt.
The conspirators are said to want to stop the tiny country — which used to be part of Yugoslavia — from ever joining NATO.
They have been accused of plotting to do this by toppling the pro-Western government and replacing it with a Moscow-friendly one.
Putin said Russia would take countermeasures in response to any more NATO expansion, RIA news agency quoted him as saying Tuesday.
“Why are we reacting to NATO expansion so emotionally? We are concerned by NATO’s decision-making.”
Another spot predicted to be at the center of a new world war is the Suwalki Gap, which connects Moscow’s ally Belarus to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
Russia’s huge Baltic Fleet is based in Kaliningrad, as are multiple Russian air bases and a new Iskander-M missile system — with nuclear warheads capable of hitting targets 310 miles away.