By Andrew Ireland
WASHINGTON – A top U.S. Defense Department analyst under President Bush says Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to use chaos and turmoil in the Middle East to make further advances in Ukraine and the Baltic states.
But for right now, he appears to be waiting.
In an exclusive interview with WND Michael Maloof, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs and senior staff writer for WND, called Russian President Vladimir Putin "the ultimate puppeteer."
As Putin is committing Russia to back the al-Maliki regime in Iraq against the rising tide of jihadist radicals, ceasefire orders in Ukraine are breaking down. As a result, Russian advances in those strategic regions are expected.
In Iraq, the radical jihadists in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, have been sweeping through and conquering northern portions of Iraq. They've been executing and destroying as they go through, and are threatening to overthrow the government of Iraq and its neighbors to build a caliphate.
Ukraine, at the same time, has been involved in high level talks with Russia in attempts to calm the turmoil and violence that developed when the region of Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine and was "annexed" by Russia.
Analysts have described that essentially as a power grab by Putin to ensure his access to the Black Sea where many assets, including Russian warships, are.
Since then, other regions of Ukraine have threatened to break off and much of the country has been marred by violent protests. Further, sizable units of Russian troops have mobilized at Ukraine's eastern border, causing the new Ukrainian leadership and much of the world to fear further Russian gains.
Maloof, author of "A Nation Forsaken," says as ISIS faces opposition moving into the Shiite-dominated southern portions of Iraq, they are likely to turn back north and move into southeastern portions of Turkey.
If ISIS insurgents move to attack Turkey, as Maloof believes they will, he says the Turkish government is likely to invoke Article 5 of the NATO pact. That subsequently would catapult the U.S. and its allies into direct combat in the Middle East.
Article 5, a principal of collective defense, provides that if a NATO ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the ally attacked.
That would open the door for Russia, he said.
"Russia will probably use that opportunity to make further moves into Ukraine," he said.
"I think policy thinkers and strategists are thinking about that. And they have to. They have to be watching all these things," Maloof said. "And I'm afraid the community organizer who became president is incapable of thinking strategically at all, but Putin is on top of it, he's the ultimate puppeteer in this."