NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Friday that he fears a full-blown war between Russia and NATO is a “real possibility” in a rare acknowledgment of the dangers of backing Ukraine.
“I fear that the war in Ukraine will get out of control, and spread into a major war between NATO and Russia,” he said, according to The Telegraph. “If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong.”
Russian officials have made clear that they believe they are fighting against NATO in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recently that both the US and NATO are “directly participating” in the war in Ukraine, meaning Russia has the pretext for strikes on NATO bases in Europe if they choose to take that step.
Despite the risk, Stoltenberg stressed that NATO countries should continue arming Ukraine and that the best way to deter Russia is to strengthen the alliance’s positions in Eastern Europe. Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows it’s one for all, and all for one,” referring to NATO’s mutual defense commitments as outlined by Article 5.
The risk of escalation rose last week after Ukrainian drones struck air bases hundreds of miles inside Russian territory, killing three Russian soldiers and damaging two Russian bombers. Citing unnamed US military sources, The Times reported Friday that the Pentagon has given Ukraine its tacit endorsement to launch such attacks.
Stoltenberg said that he understands why some people in Europe are getting tired of supporting Ukraine as they face rising energy and food prices. But the NATO chief claimed that the continent’s “peace and freedom” would be threatened if Putin wins in Ukraine.