NATO and Russia ‘No Doubt’ May Fight ‘Major War’ Over Ukraine: Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Friday that the Russia-Ukraine war could escalate into a “major” conflict.

Stoltenberg’s remarks come more than nine months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, setting off an armed conflict that has been subject to worldwide rebuke over a lack of justification and alleged human rights abuses.

Throughout the conflict, analysts have raised concerns about the potential for spillover into nations that are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Ukraine is not part of the coalition, with apparent corruption being a major roadblock to its membership.

However, Russia expanding the invasion—or mistakenly striking one of Ukraine’s neighbors that are part of the organization—would threaten to lead to a wider conflict. Article 5 of NATO’s charter states that “an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies,” meaning an attack against a NATO state could draw a military response by all others.

Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting in Moscow on October 25. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday he fears there is “no doubt” the Russia-Ukraine war could grow into a “major” conflict.
ALEXEI BABUSHKIN/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

In an interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK, Stoltenberg said he fears there is “no doubt” the war could reach that point, and that authorities are working “every day” to avoid a larger war, according to a translation by PBS News Hour.

“I fear that the war in Ukraine will get out of control, and spread into a major war between NATO and Russia,” he said, adding that “if things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong.”

Still, he expressed confidence that NATO “will avoid that” due to its increased presence in Eastern Europe. Following Putin’s invasion, NATO enhanced the number of troops in several countries near Russia including Poland, Estonia and Hungary in an effort to deter the Russian leader from launching attacks against NATO.

Furthermore, the Russia-Ukraine war has also strengthened NATO, a blow to Putin, who has fought against Western coalitions encroaching into Eastern Europe. Sweden and Finland, which shares a border with Russia, have made formal bids to join the organization.

Their membership has not been confirmed, however, as Turkey and Hungary have not yet agreed to their entry. Countries would need to receive unanimous consent from current member states in order to join.

Putin on Friday said Russia has floated the idea of ​​using preemptive strikes using a hypersonic weapon. He described such an action was based off the US Conventional Prompt Global Strike capability, which would involve striking an enemy’s targets with precision-guided weapons anywhere in the world within an hour, according to the Associated Press.

“Speaking about a disarming strike, maybe it’s worth thinking about adopting the ideas developed by our US counterparts, their ideas of ensuring their security,” the Russian leader said during a conference in Kyrgyzstan, the AP reported.

Ukraine War Threatened to Grow Into Wider Conflict

The Russia-Ukraine war has threatened to escalate into a wider conflict with NATO and the West at several points throughout the year, as tensions with the West have grown even more strained since the war began.

In October, the threat of nuclear war with Russia appeared to grow. Putin, facing growing losses in Ukraine, ordered a partial mobilization of troops and said Russia would “use all the means at our disposal” in Ukraine, which was seen as a reference to the country’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.

President Joe Biden warned of a nuclear “Armageddon” in response to Putin’s remarks.

“He is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological and chemical weapons, because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming,” Biden said during a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in New York City in early October . “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily use tactical nuclear weapons and not end up with Armageddon.”

Tensions also spiked last month after what initially appeared to be a Russian-produced rocket striking a Polish village, killing two people. Concerns quickly mounted that Poland could invoke Article 5, but NATO determined the missile was accidentally fired from Ukraine—although Kyiv has maintained that it was not theirs.

Newsweek reached out to Russia’s Ministry of Defense for comment.

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