Newsweek

Putin Is Preparing for World War III—Is Trump?

Many Russians believe a major war is imminent, and that’s the way Putin likes it.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Red Square after a Victory Day military parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, the Eastern Front of World War II.
FE_Russia_01_680802992 Source: Mikhail Klimentyev/TASS/Getty

Russia, surrounded by enemies, is readying to fight an epic war for survival. At least that’s what Vladimir Putin wants his countrymen to think. Nearly every evening, Russian state-controlled television leads news broadcasts with video of Russian planes in action over Syria, interspersed with images of NATO tanks and troops menacing Russia’s borders. On 60 Minut, Russia’s top-rated political talk show, analyst Nikita Isayev recently spoke of Russia’s “great victory” in Syria heralding the country’s return to “superpower status.” And in late November, Putin put Russian business on alert: “The ability of our economy to increase military production and services at a given time is one of the most important aspects of military security,” he told a meeting of top military brass in Sochi. “All strategic and simply large-scale enterprise should be ready.”

Like much Russian propaganda, the Kremlin’s claim that the country is at war is based on a kernel of truth. But it’s a very small kernel. In Syria, a single squadron of around 36 Russian combat aircraft serviced by 4,751 personnel based mostly at the Khmeimim airfield has been in action since September 2015. And in eastern Ukraine, Russian regular soldiers in

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