A direct confrontation between Russia and the West in Europe could happen, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says
The Ukraine conflict could erupt into a full-fledged war between Russia and NATO, the military alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said. He also claimed that NATO has been focused on avoiding a new global conflict.
“I fear that the war in Ukraine will spiral out of control and become a major war between NATO and Russia,” Stoltenberg told Norwegian broadcaster NRK on Friday, adding that “if things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong.”
“NATO’s most important task is to prevent a full-scale war in Europe, and that is something we work on every single day.”
The head of the US-led bloc however warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that NATO would defend its members. According to Article 5 of its founding treaty, an armed attack on one member state “shall be considered an attack against them all.” Stoltenberg said that Putin “knows that it’s one for all and all for one.”
After Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February, NATO deployed 40,000 troops to its eastern flank, nearly ten times more than a year before. Moscow, meanwhile, considers NATO military sites close to its border as a national security threat and has warned that sending heavy weapons from the West to Kiev risks a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this month that the US and NATO were already “directly involved” in the conflict by supplying Ukraine with arms and training its soldiers.
Washington now reportedly believes such strikes are less likely to trigger a direct clash between Moscow and NATO
The US has quietly given Ukraine the go-ahead to launch long-range strikes against targets inside Russian territory, The Times reported on Friday, citing sources. The Pentagon has apparently changed its stance on the matter as it has become less concerned that such attacks could escalate the conflict.
According to a US defense source interviewed by the outlet, the Pentagon is now “not saying to Kiev, ‘Don’t strike the Russians [in Russia or Crimea].’
“We can’t tell them what to do. It’s up to them how they use their weapons,” he said, adding that Washington only demands that Kiev conforms to international law and the Geneva conventions when using US-supplied weapons.
However, the Pentagon has revised the evaluation of threats linked to the Ukraine conflict, particularly on whether providing Kiev with arms might trigger a direct clash between NATO and Russia, the report says.
“We’re still using the same escalatory calculations but the fear of escalation has changed since the beginning,” a US official told the outlet, arguing that the calculus had changed due to “brutality the Ukrainians are being subjected to by the Russians.”
Against this backdrop, Pentagon officials are now reportedly “seriously” considering Ukraine’s requests for long-range weapons that could be used for strikes deep inside Russia. “Nothing is off the table,” a senior US defense official told The Times.
Earlier this month, Ukraine launched an attack on two Russian air bases in Ryazan and Saratov regions, both several hundred kilometers from Kiev-controlled territory, using a number of “Soviet-made” drones, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. The raid “fatally injured” three service members, with another four being taken to hospital.
On Tuesday, following the attack, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that Washington had “neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia.”
The report comes as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba claimed on Thursday that, while Washington and Kiev agree that Ukrainian forces will not use US-supplied weapons to attack most Russian territory, this does not apply to Crimea.
In September, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned the US that, should it provide Kiev with long-range weapons, this would cross a “red line” and make America “a direct party to the conflict.”
Foreign-supplied rockets and shells are being used to strike schools and homes, Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia says.
Western countries whose weapons are being used by Ukrainian troops to kill civilians in Donbass will face legal consequences, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations has warned.
Speaking at the UN Security Council on Friday, Vassily Nebenzia said HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and M982 Excalibur guided artillery shells were being used to indiscriminately fire on Donetsk and other cities.
“For example, the Druzhba sports arena [in Donetsk], where drinking water was being distributed to civilians, was attacked on December 4 with an Excalibur shell. The Ukrainian forces, emboldened by Western countries, are literally trying to level the city,” the Russian diplomat said.
According to Nebenzia, 22 civilians have been killed and more than 80 wounded in Donbass since November 27, and numerous homes and schools have been damaged. He added that HIMARS rockets have hit civilian sites, such as kindergartens and hotels.
“We are carefully recording all such criminal activities by the US and their allies. They will lead to concrete legal repercussions for all who are involved,” Nebenzia said.
The Pentagon announced an additional $275 million in security and military aid to Ukraine on Friday, including HIMARS rockets and 80,000 155mm artillery rounds.
Moscow has previously described deliveries of long-range and heavy weapons to Ukraine as “red lines,” warning it could lead to a direct conflict between Russia and the West. Washington and its allies insist they are not a party to the hostilities, but continue sending arms shipments to Kiev.