Russia's top military officer has warned of increased risks of the country being drawn into conflicts along its borders that may escalate into a nuclear war.

“After the breakup of the Soviet Union the risk of local armed conflicts along practically the entire perimeter of Russia's borders has sharply increased,” said Army General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the Russian General Staff. “I cannot rule out that under certain circumstances local and regional conflicts may grow into a large-scale war, including war with the use of nuclear weapons.”

General Makarov told the Russian Public Chamber, a Kremlin consultative body, that NATO's expansion into the former Soviet Union heightened mistrust.

“There are serious attempts to draw Ukraine and Georgia into the North-Atlantic Alliance,” he said adding that this was fraught with new conflicts.

The General Staff Chief admitted that the Russian armed forces faced a shortage of draftees and called for creating more incentives for young people to serve on a contract basis.

A crisis in conventional forces has prompted Russia to allow in its military doctrine the use of nuclear weapons against a large-scale conventional attack that threatens the country's existence.

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