russian missile
A Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile system drives during the Victory Day parade, marking the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, at Red Square in Moscow, May 9, 2016. Grigory Dukor/Reuters

A Russian newspaper predicts a direct military confrontation between Russia and the United States as tensions heat up over Syria, stoking worries about World War III.

The Russian tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets made the prediction last week, saying it would be on a par with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“Just imagine that the U.S. does what it has wanted to do for a long time and strike against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, not by mistake but on purpose and openly,” the newspaper said.

“Should Russia defend its ally or consider striking against the Americans, but this would definitely lead to a Third World War.

“Russia can win big in Syria but it can also lose big too. We must not forget that in Syria we are playing an astonishingly risky game.”

Russia has long seen NATO expansion as a threat and vigorously opposed a U.S. missile defense shield in Europe, alleging it could be used offensively.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed Saturday it had moved nuclear-capable missiles to Kalingrad near the Polish border, the Telegraph reported. The Iskander missiles are capable of hitting targets 450 miles away, putting Berlin within reach.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild newspaper the situation now is more dangerous than during the Cold War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to work with the West to help defeat the Islamic State group in Syria but has since conducted bombing campaigns apparently aimed at propping up Assad. The most recent bombing runs have laid waste to Aleppo, once Syria’s economic capital.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week called for a war crimes investigation of Russian actions.

Putin raised the ire of the West when he seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

More recently Russia has been blamed for hacking the Democratic National Committee and nearly two dozen U.S. voter registration databases in a bid to influence the U.S. presidential election.

In Russia, CNN reported a massive civil defense exercise last week, accompanied by instructions on how to survive a nuclear attack.