Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday said the threat of a nuclear war “should not be underestimated” as he accused NATO of engaging in a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, a warning that comes a day after U.S. officials said Washington’s goal in the Ukraine conflict was to see Russia’s military capability weakened.
When asked about the risk of a third world war in an interview on Russian state television, Lavrov said Russia was doing everything to prevent nuclear war but those risks are now “considerable.”
Lavrov added that he was opposed to elevating those risks “artificially” but warned that the danger was “serious and real” and should not be underestimated.
The Russian foreign minister decried the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine and accused NATO of engaging in war with Russia “through a proxy and… arming that proxy.”
By providing weapons to Ukraine, NATO was “pouring oil on the fire,” the top Russian diplomat said.
Russia will treat weapons supplied by Western countries as “a legitimate target,” Lavrov said, adding that Russian forces have targeted weapons warehouses in western Ukraine.
Following his visit to Kyiv on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin outlined the U.S. government’s goals in the Ukraine conflict, saying Washington wants Ukraine to remain a sovereign, democratic nation and has everything it needs “to win this fight.” Austin then added, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” In an apparent response to Austin’s remark, Lavrov said Russia has a feeling that the West wants to prolong Ukraine’s fight and in the process wear out Russia’s army and its military-industrial complex. But he warned, “this is an illusion.”
“Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
Lavrov’s statements follow a high profile diplomatic visit to Kyiv by two senior Biden administration officials—Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin—earlier on Monday. Speaking to reporters in Poland after returning from Kyiv, Blinken said that in terms of war aims “Russia has already failed and Ukraine has already succeeded.” In a show of support to Kyiv, Blinken also announced that the U.S. will resume diplomatic operations in the country, while President Joe Biden nominated Bridget Brink—the current U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia—to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, filling a spot that has been vacant since 2019. Since the start of Russia’s invasion, the U.S. has offered $3.7 billion in military aid to Ukraine, something that has angered Russia.
Top Russian diplomat warns Ukraine against provoking WWIII (Associated Press)