Friday, February 6, 2015

• Putin could attack Baltic states warns former Nato chief - Ambrose

Vladimir Putin could mastermind a hybrid attack on a Baltic state to test whether Nato would mobilise, warns Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Vladimir Putin has dangerous ambitions beyond Ukraine and aims to test Western resolve in the Baltic states, the former head of Nato has warned.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary-general of the Atlantic alliance, said the Kremlin’s true goal is to shatter Nato solidarity and reassert Russian dominance over Eastern Europe.

“This is not about Ukraine. Putin wants to restore Russia to its former position as a great power,” he told The Telegraph.

“There is a high probability that he will intervene in the Baltics to test Nato’s Article 5,” he said, referring to the solidarity clause that underpins collective security.

“Putin knows that if he crosses the red line and attacks a Nato ally, he will be defeated. Let us be quite clear about that. But he is a specialist in hybrid warfare,” he said.

The fear is that the Kremlin will generate a murky conflict in Estonia or Latvia where there are large Russian minorities, using arms-length action or “little green men” without insignia to disguise any intervention. This may tempt weaker Nato members to play down the incident, either to protect commercial ties with Russia or because of pro-Kremlin sympathies as in Hungary or Greece.

Estonia's relations with Russia worsened significantly last September when a squad of Russian security operatives allegedly crossed into Estonian territory and seized Eston Kohver, a veteran officer in the Estonian Security Service.

Mr Kohver was paraded on Russian television as a spy and is currently being held in a high security prison in Moscow. Analysts believe the abduction - which took place two days after a visit to Tallinn by Barack Obama - was designed to demonstrate Russia's muscle in the Baltics.

Nato has already beefed up its forces in the region with squadrons of fighter jets, chiefly as show of force and as a strategic tripwire to reassure allies. Its Baltic Air Policing Mission intercepted 150 incursions into NATO airspace by Russian aircraft last year.

Article 5 states that a military attack on any one Nato country is an attack on all of them, triggering collective mobilization. It has been invoked just once in the 66-year history of the alliance, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.

Nobody knows what would happen if one of the Baltic states invoked Article 5 protection but was turned down by the Nato Council. Failure to respond would devastate Nato’s credibility and undermine the principle of deterrence, though allies could still act as a coalition of the willing outside the treaty structure.

Mr Rasmussen, who had to grapple with the Ukraine crisis until stepping down as Nato chief in September, said Mr Putin’s immediate tactic is to create a frozen conflict in the Donbass rather than trying to conquer and hold large parts of the country. “He wants to keep the water boiling,” he said.

He called for urgent action by Nato to mount a rapid deployment force of several thousand troops in a permanent state of “high readiness” and able to act within 48-72 hours as a deterrent, but the cost is proving prohibitive. “It is very expensive. Only a few are able to do it,” he said.

Mr Rasmussen said the Europeans have slashed military spending so deeply since the financial crisis that they can barely defend themselves without American help. “The situation is critical. We have a lot of soldiers but we can't move them,” he said.

"Nato countries have cut defence spending by 20pc in real terms over the last five years – and some by 40pc - while Russia has increased by 80pc. The aggression in Ukraine is a wake-up call," he said.

“We learned in the Libyan crisis that Europe is totally reliant on the Americans for air-refueling, drones, and communications intelligence. We don’t have air transport. It is really bad.”

Belgium is the most extreme case, famed for its well-armed pension fund while fighting capability fades away. It spends 96pc of defence budget on salaries, retirement, and its Burgundian canteens. The share spent on military kit has been slashed to 4pc. “Military confidence is nearing the point of collapse," said Alexander Mattelear from the Vrije Universtiteit in Brussels.

Mr Rasmussen said there is no truth to Kremlin claims that the West violated pledges at the end of the Cold War that there would be no eastward expansion of the alliance into the territory of former Soviet Union. “No such pledge was ever made, and declassified documents in Washington prove this. It is pure propaganda,” he said.

Russian soldiers stand outside a Ukrainian 
military base in Crimea (GETTY IMAGES)
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US Pentagon report from 2008 concluded that 'the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality', described as 'a form of autism'

A top secret Pentagon report has concluded that Vladimir Putin suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.

The study from 2008, which was based only on videos of Putin, claimed that the Russian president’s mother had a stroke whilst pregnant with him that left lasting damage.

As a result his "neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy," the report says.

Putin’s authoritarian style and obsession with "extreme control" is a way of overcompensating for his condition, the researchers concluded

Putin’s actions have been under particular scrutiny since last year when he ordered Russian troops to annexe eastern Ukraine.

The report was prepared in 2008 for the US military’s Office of Net Assessment, a secretive think tank, and was written by Brenda Connors, an expert in movement pattern analysis at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

She analysed videos of Putin's public actions dating back to the year 2000 though they did not have access to scans of his brain.

The report concluded that "the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality" and defined Asperger’s as: "An autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions."

The study also suggests that Putin suffered an "insult" to his brain whilst still in his mother’s womb that may have caused her to have a stroke whilst pregnant with him.

This could have affected how he thinks and how he moves the right side of his body.
 Vladimir Putin sits in a motorised deltaplane 
near a crane at Yamalo-Nenets district (AP)

The report says: "His primary form of compensation for his disorder is extreme control and this is reflected in his decision style and how he governs."

Among those quoted in the report is Dr Stephen Porges, who is now a University of North Carolina psychiatry professor, who says: "Putin carries a form of autism."

Reached by the US media, Dr Porges said he had had not seen the final report and that Putin could just be difficult in public settings.

He said: "If you need to do things with him, you don't want to be in a big state affair but more of one-on-one situation someplace somewhere quiet."

According to the UK’s National Autistic Society, autism is a form of developmental disorder that affects how people perceive and communicate with the world.

Some 700,000 people in Britain are on the autism spectrum disorder, and Asperger’s is a kind of the condition.

Famous Asperger’s sufferers include Dan Ackroyd, Susan Boyle and Daryl Hannah.

Albert Einstein was thought to have had Asperger’s, as did Marilyn Monroe and Abraham Lincoln.

The Office of Net Assessment provides long-range plans for the Pentagon and helps shape future strategy.