Russian President Vladimir Putin’s veiled threat to use nuclear weapons after Russia’s defeats in Ukraine was “dangerous and reckless rhetoric”, the NATO secretary general said on Wednesday, adding that the only way to end the war is to prove that Moscow will not win on the battlefield.
Jens Stoltenberg also told Reuters in an interview that Russia’s first military deployment since World War II was not a surprise, but that it will escalate the conflict and cost more lives. But, he added, it also represents evidence that Putin made “a big mistake” with Russia’s decision to launch the invasion on February 24.
Stoltenberg, who spoke to Reuters editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni in New York during the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting, said the 30-nation Western military alliance will remain calm and “will not engage in the same kind of reckless and dangerous nuclear rhetoric by President Putin”.
“The only way to end this war is to prove that President Putin is not going to win on the battlefield. When he realizes that, he will have to sit down and negotiate a reasonable deal with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
Putin has called up 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine and backed a plan to annex parts of the country, hinting to the West that it is prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.
The announcement came after increasing casualties and battlefield setbacks for Russian forces, which were driven out of areas they captured in northeastern Ukraine in a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month.
“President Putin’s speech demonstrates that the war is not going according to his plans,” Stoltenberg said.
“He made a big mistake, a strategic mistake,” the NATO secretary general said of Putin, making a grim prediction.
“More troops will escalate the conflict. That means more suffering, more loss of life – Ukrainian lives, but also Russian lives,” he said.
Putin said, without offering evidence that NATO officials had threatened to use nuclear weapons against Russia, and that Russia “also has various means of destruction.”
NATO has not seen any change in Russia’s nuclear posture and readiness, said Stoltenberg, who added that the key is to prevent such an escalation.
“Let’s make sure there are no misunderstandings in Moscow about exactly how we’re going to react. Of course it depends on the type of situation or what kind of weapons they might use. The most important thing is to prevent that from happening and that’s why we’re being so clear in our communications with Russia about the unprecedented consequences,” Stoltenberg said, referring to any Russian use of nuclear weapons.
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Translated to english by RJ983
From Brazil, by EBC News