Harry Kazianis, an expert on U.S. foreign policy and national security issues, said that the current crisis has put the world in a “dangerous” situation. Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “For a living, I literally do war game scenarios. “And when we get to this point in a potential NATO/Russia clash, there’s about a 40 percent chance that it ends up being a war in a nuclear exchange.
“So that’s how dangerous this all really is.”
Mr Kazianis described the current crisis as being “worse than the Cuban missile crisis”, one of the most dangerous periods of the cold war, warning that if “NATO and Russia start shooting at each other”, war game scenarios always show it escalating into a nuclear war.
The expert, who is an analyst at the US thinktank Centre for National Interest, said: “This may actually be worse than the Cuban missile crisis, because of the amount of weaponry and egos and historical tension all packaged into one.
“In terms of nuclear war, the most likely scenario is that NATO and Russia start shooting at each other.
“Every war game I’ve ever done, every time NATO and Russia get into an armed conflict, every single time it becomes a nuclear war. There’s no question.
“The reason why is because the Russians do not have, in a conventional sense, a way to beat the United States or NATO. It’s impossible.
“Their force structure isn’t ready to do that.
“They look tough but there’s no way they can beat the combined might of the United States and European Union. It’s impossible.
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“And this is what the Russians would try to do to get us to back off.
“The problem is that in every scenario we’ve ever run, NATO responds with bigger nuclear weapons, which the Russians respond with bigger nuclear weapons and we basically all become radioactive goo.”
Mr Kazianis outlined a number of other scenarios that could lead to a nuclear escalation, such as the death of US or UK civilians, or Russian missiles landing in NATO territory.
But the expert said that there were “a hundred” scenarios that could lead to nuclear war.
This comes just weeks after Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, accusing NATO of “aggressive statements”.
A week after Putin began his invasion of Ukraine in February, the President said: “Senior officials of the leading Nato countries also allow aggressive statements against our country, therefore I order the minister of defence and the chief of the general staff [of the Russian armed forces] to transfer the deterrence forces of the Russian army to a special mode of combat duty.
“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading Nato members made aggressive statements regarding our country.”
The US described the escalation as “totally unacceptable”.