EU 'turning in on itself' as Putin and Xi threat spells increasing danger for the West

He accused the EU of taking its eye off the ball and being too concerned about its “dream of EU unity” to focus on threats by aggressive world powers like Russia and China. Mr Shields, a former RAF navigator, told “The EU is so worried about its internal problems and the dream of greater EU unity that it hasn’t got the wherewithal to turn its attentions to what I think are far greater problems, the problems of international politics.

“The threat of Putin and China and challenges to the very ideas of western democracy and even western domination.”

He called on NATO to be united in its response to Russia and Putin’s threats of invasion in Ukraine.

Mr Shields said: “My prediction that 2022 is going to be an interesting and challenging year for international politics.

“Divisions within in what I now term as the ‘Disunited States of America’, the huge problems in the former Soviet Union and the way Putin is turning the clock back in Russia towards the Soviet times, and problems in China.

“I think we need a far more united and unified voice and indeed leadership in terms of international politics from NATO.

“The problem that I think NATO faces is a disunited America – I have never known America as polarised as it is now, to a far greater extent even in the ’60s when racism was at its height.

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His warning comes after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Russia has “no justification whatsoever” for its aggression towards Ukraine.

The Foreign Secretary, who is planning to visit Kiev later this month, warned any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a “massive strategic mistake” and would “come at a severe cost”, including the prospect of “co-ordinated sanctions” to hit the country’s interests and economy.

Ms Truss, making a statement in the House of Commons, said the UK’s commitment to Ukraine is “unwavering”. It joins its allies in defending “democracy at the frontier of freedom in eastern Europe and around the world”.

She added: “We will not accept the campaign Russia is waging to subvert its democratic neighbours. It is accompanied by baseless rhetoric and disinformation.

“They have falsely cast Ukraine as a threat to justify their aggressive stance. They falsely accuse Nato of provocation; this could not be further from the truth.

“Russia is the aggressor here. They have massed a huge number of troops along the Ukrainian border and in illegally annexed Crimea.

“There is no justification whatsoever for Russia’s bellicose stance towards Ukraine. It is unprovoked and it is part of a wider pattern of behaviour by the Kremlin, reliant on disinformation and mistrust to seek to gain an upper hand.”

When asked whether he believed Putin’s troops would invade Ukraine, Mr Shields added: “Putin is hugely astute, very much tuned in to the mood music of the Russian people.

“One way of understanding the Russians is they admire a strong leader.

“If he can keep playing the hardman without having to resort to invasion he will.”