A top advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the conflict in Ukraine could escalate into World War III and involve nuclear weapons.
Thousands of people have been killed or maimed and an estimated 5 million have been displaced in Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told Russian state TV that NATO was engaging in a proxy war with the Kremlin by supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine with the goal of ‘wearing down the Russian army” — an aim he described as an “illusion”.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 countries including 28 in Europe and two in North America.
Lavrov said that tensions between East and West are now worse than during the Cuban missile crisis at the height of the Cold War. The risk of nuclear war must not be underestimated, he warned.
From Oct. 16 to Oct. 28, 1962 — the period known as the Cuban Missile Crisis — the world came closer to a nuclear war than at any time since, including the 1983 war games.
Lavrov’s World War III nuclear rhetoric came hours after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv and promised more military assistance to Ukraine. Austin said the U.S. wanted to see Russia “weakened” and pledged to arm Ukraine to help it win against Moscow.
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Dmitri Alperovitch, a geopolitics analyst, tweeted that the Russian foreign minister was not threatening to launch a nuclear war, but was saying Moscow was not considering a nuclear option.
“No, Lavrov did not threaten nuclear war in today’s interview. Quite the opposite. He said: “Nuclear war is unacceptable; this is Moscow’s principled position,” Alperovitch tweeted on April 26.
“I remain convinced—as I have been from day 1 of the war—that the likelihood of Russia executing a nuclear strike is minimal IF we continue to avoid a direct RU-NATO conflict. If we don’t, then yes, all bets are off,” he added.
Photo: A rocket launches from a missile system as part of a ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile test, Plesetsk facility, Northwestern Russia, Dec. 9, 2020. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)