The UK Defence Chief told the BBC One Andrew Marr Show a “small spark” in Syria could easily escalate into a huge global conflict. With the Russian Government propping up the Assad regime, US military forces still on the ground and various terrorist groups now aided by the presence of Turkish forces in Syria, Sir Nick warned “it wouldn’t take a lot” for World War 3 to spark. He explained: “I think Russia now is much more assertive than it was ten years ago.
“And it’s got some self-confidence now as it reasserts itself as a global power.
“And, of course, we see that in Syria where it’s had a pretty free reign in terms of what it’s done to promote the Assad regime.
“And when I talk about escalation, if you look at the complexity of the conditions on the ground in Syria, you could see how a small spark – perhaps even as small as the one that happened in 1914 with Archduke Ferdinand – could happen again.
“Because you have Turkey in Syria now, you’ve got American forces in Syria still, you’ve got Russian forces in Syria, you’ve got Russian mercenaries in Syria and all manner of terrorist groups as well as the regime itself.
“So, it wouldn’t take a lot.”
It is why the Defence Chief explained NATO is as important now as it was during the height of the Cold War, with the world undergoing rapid change “probably more enormous than even the two world wars combined”.
In a separate interview with Sky News, Sir Nick Carter said threats facing Britain and its allies were “very diverse”, citing increasing migration and terrorism, and warning the actions of Russia, China and Iran could “easily lead to inadvertent miscalculation” and increase the chance of war.
He told Sky News: “Of course we all had a huge amount of optimism in 1989 as the (Berlin) Wall came down… but the reality is the world has changed, it’s moved on.
“We now have what I think would be characterised as global competition between great powers.
“So I think Nato’s relevance is now back to where it was during the Cold War… I think in many ways it’s never been as important in its 70 years of its life.
“We’re living through a period of phenomenal change at the moment.
“It’s change that is probably more enormous than even the two world wars combined, and the pace of it is increasing rapidly.
“On the basis of that, I think we do need to think pretty hard about how as a nation we’re going to manage that change and it matters to our armed forces hugely.”
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Sir Nick said the armed forces had never been more popular with the public in his lifetime, but warned the popularity could be based on “sympathy not empathy”.
He added: “Our veterans and armed forces don’t want to be pitied… they want to be respected”.
It comes as the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford suggested scrapping Trident nuclear weapons would be part of a “wish list” for the nationalist party if the General Election results in a hung parliament.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said he had “deep concerns” a governing pact between Labour and the SNP could “put at risk Scotland and the UK’s security in a changing and dangerous world”.
He told the Sunday Times: “Russian submarines are in the North Atlantic and there is an aggressive Russian posture across Eastern Europe threatening Nato allies.
“Trident is a really important deterrent against them. Corbyn is rolling the dice over Britain’s defence and Sturgeon is doing the same with Scotland’s security.”
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