A retired Navy captain and former intelligence officer warned during an interview this week with Fox News that the war in Europe between Russia and Ukraine could quickly escalate into a much larger war if Russia conducts a false flag operation.
“I think there is still risk of more expansionism,” Steven Horrell told the network. “There’s a risk of something sparking an escalation, some sort of incident on the high seas, or in international airspace, or a fabricated incident for some sort of cross-border thing that could lead to further escalation.”
The remarks come after the war entered its third week following Russian President Vladimir Putin giving the order for the invasion late last month.
“I think Russia has for some time held the opinion that the West, the U.S. [and] NATO, have a very low tolerance for cost and for pain,” Horrell said. “And, conversely, that Russia has a much higher cost acceptance.”
He said that Russia has a strategy of “escalate to deescalate,” which could mean that the war is about to get significantly worse as Russia tries to gain leverage for a more favorable outcome.
“A ship in the Black Sea with a Kalibr land attack cruise missile could reach Berlin,” Horrell told Fox News. “If they viewed one of the European capitals as being a weakness in NATO, they could do that sort of escalation, non-nuclear, but they could strike outside the immediate theater of conflict and start hitting NATO targets.”
He said that Russia miscalculated its ability to take over Ukraine because “the decision-makers in the Kremlin truly believed some of their own press reports and expected a quick and hasty victory,” Horrell said. “There are no indications of more forces reinforcing the current force commitment from Russia to Ukraine. Frankly, I don’t know how many more cards in that regard there are to play.”
U.S. officials say that they are worried that Russia could be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine after Russia accused Ukraine of planning a false flag attack using such weapons.
The New York Times reported:
A new report by the European Expert Association, a research group that focuses on security in Ukraine, and the technology watchdog group Reset Tech said that since October, misinformation researchers had observed rumors circulating widely online and in Russian news media that could be groundwork for such an operation, or to help justify a military buildup.
Many of the rumors first started circulating on anonymous Telegram channels, and were then repeated in televised statements by Russian officials, the report said. Others started with statements from Russian officials and were repeated on Telegram channels until they became talking points among ordinary citizens.
An official told NBC News that the U.S. was worried that the Russians were making the claim “to justify a false-flag operation or them using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine themselves,” adding, “We do believe that we should be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons.”