Nato chiefs, thrown into a panic by fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin might attack the West, are scrambling to put together a force of 300,000 troops which they can put on ‘high alert’. Relations between Russia and the West have plunged in the last year, with Moscow’s insistence on backing its Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad, at all costs leading to serious tension with the US, Britain and France.

Most Nato members cut their defence spending dramatically since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 but Russia has been bolstering its military capabilities, holding parades involving more than 100,000 troops each year. Moscow has been throwing its weight around in recent years – in 2008 Russian troops humiliated the Georgians and in turn the White House by invading South Ossetia and Abkhazia in support of pro-Moscow rebels. FULL REPORT