Crucially, for Britain , we could face the stark prospect of being the only nuclear power willing to stand up to Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile China’s continuing cyber attacks on the UK and its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea could ultimately drag the Royal Navy into conflict.

And although the Islamic State is firmly on the back foot, its defeat would not end the threat of jihadi terror attacks on British soil.

Finally, Turkey’s gradual conversion into an Islamic republic puts its role as a Nato ally in doubt.

Globally, Russia remains Britain’s biggest strategic opponent and the power most likely to draw us into conventional conflict in 2017.

President Vladimir Putin sees the shock election of Republican Donald Trump as an opportunity to consolidate his regional ambitions.

His decision not to retaliate to American expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats over election hacking shows Moscow’s desire to appease the new US administration.

He has much to gain. President-elect Trump has vowed to destroy IS in Syria and is willing to work with Putin to secure a quick foreign policy success. 

But Putin will want payback. The US could abandon its explicit support for Ukraine and fall silent over Crimea, putting an end to sanctions.

Putin could seize his chance in the Baltics and his concentration of troops in Kaliningrad makes Nato member Lithuania an obvious target.

Trump’s commitment to Nato is untested. He may decide only nations that meet their obligations on defence spending deserve US assistance.

Putin in army gear in 2014

Without opposition from the US, Putin may try to expand into former Soviet nations

The UK provides 500 troops to Nato’s 4,000-strong Baltic commitment.

“We could see a British casualty in the Baltic this year,” said Dr Andrew Foxall, director of the Henry Jackson Society’s Russia Studies Centre.

Russian aerial and naval incursions near British territory have already given it vital intelligence about our Armed Forces, and its ability to hack software systems is not confined to the US.

Last year’s attack on French channel TV45 showed our media channels and websites are targets too. 

Chinese armyGETTY

Trump’s phone call with Taiwan damaged US-China diplomatic relations


Trump’s decision to take a call from Taiwan’s premier, breaking a 30-year “hands-off” US policy, has set the diplomatic thermostat to freezing.

China has already declared it will ignore a ruling by the Hague which found against its greater territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The likely imposition of an Air Defence Identification Zone, forcing foreign military aircraft to “ask permission” before flying through international airspace, will result in the US immediately sending out an unarmed B52 bomber. 

Reef airfield in the South China SeaGETTY

China has been expanding its military presence in the disputed South China Sea

This will be met by Chinese fighter jets who will, in turn, usher in their US counterparts.

“The fate of nations may rely on the reaction of individual pilots,” said John Hemmings, director of the Henry Jackson Society’s Asia programme.

China is also expected to militarise seven artificial islands it has built, setting the scene for naval conflict.




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