The invasion of Ukraine has been described as a mere "rehearsal" for a far bigger World War by an analyst on Russian state TV.
Professor Alexei Fenenko, a leading research fellow at the Institute of International Security Studies, teased that this future conflict may be against NATO.
The Kremlin is yet to officially describe the conflict in Ukraine as a war, instead sticking to their "special military operation" line used by Vladimir Putin when he announced the invasion on February 24.
News channels in Russia are controlled by the state and rarely deviate from what the Kremlin wants them to say.
However, speaking on a discussion panel on the Russia-1 network this week, Fenenko did use the term "war" and suggested more of it is to come.
He said: "For us, the war in Ukraine is a rehearsal. Rehearsal for a possible bigger conflict in the future.
"We'll test and compare NATO weapons to our own, we'll find out on the battlefield how much stronger our weapons are then theirs.
"This may be a learning experience for future conflicts."
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If it were to transpire that Fenenko's comments were sanctioned from above, it would represent a significant change in approach from the Kremlin.
Reacting on Twitter, retired US general Barry R McCaffery described Fenenko's statement as "astonishing" given how much stronger NATO is compared to Russia.
He said: "The economic and conventional military power of NATO/EU is multiple times that of Russia.
"A rehearsal for a war with NATO against a much smaller adversary in Ukraine that’s going very badly for Russia.
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"Escalation of Russian aggression against other NATO countries would be completely illogical."
Fenenko's comments came after both Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO.
Putin said on Monday (May 16) that expansion of the alliance's military infrastructure into either country would force Moscow to react.
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