There has never been a more unsettling strategic landscape in my lifetime – we must turn our attention to the prospect of conflict
While Britain’s political class is distracted by a Downing Street party, the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
The West faces escalating threats of conflict on three fronts, each separate but linked by unknown levels of collusion: Russia’s mobilisation of a strike force on Ukraine’s border, China’s "dress rehearsal" for an attack on Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear brinkmanship.
Each country is emboldening the other two to press their advantage, and together they risk a fundamental convulsion of the global order.
You have to go back yet further to find a moment when Western democracies were so vulnerable to a sudden change in fortunes. Today’s events have echoes of the interlude between the Chamberlain-Daladier capitulation at Munich in 1938 and consequences that followed in rapid crescendo, from Anschluss to the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
The least reported, but perhaps the most immediate, is the rapid nuclear escalation of Iran’s Islamist hardliner, Ebra Raisi. American and Israeli officials think the regime could be as little as two or three weeks away from the threshold required to assemble a nuclear weapon, at which point the Mid-East balance of power changes instantly.
“Iran’s enrichment of uranium at 60pc levels has taken it to the precipice. This is the highest level ever and the regime can easily make the leap to weapons grade level of 90pc,” said Helima Croft, energy strategist at RBC Capital Markets and former oil analyst at the CIA.
Israel may not wait to find out whether this really is a dash for the bomb - at a time when the US is focussed elsewhere - or a bargaining tactic. Mossad chief David Barnea flew to Washington on Sunday night to test the waters for a pre-emptive strike.
Israel would like the US to join in with its 2.5 tonne "bunker buster" bombs to destroy Iran’s underground sites. But it will not hesitate to act alone if pushed too far, allocating $1.5bn in October to prepare for its own attack.
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Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden spoke via video call this week, amid growing fears that Russia will invade Ukraine Credit: MIKHAIL METZEL/ AFP