Russia warns of direct clash with West over Ukraine

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

MOSCOW: Russia said on Monday that U.S., British and French military support for Ukraine has pushed the world to the brink of a direct clash between the world’s biggest nuclear powers that could end in catastrophe.

President Vladimir Putin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has touched off the worst breakdown in relations between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, according to Russian and U.S. diplomats.

Just two days after U.S. lawmakers approved billions of dollars in additional military aid to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the United States and NATO were obsessed with the idea of inflicting “strategic defeat” on Russia.

Lavrov said Western support for Ukraine was putting the United States and its allies on the verge of a direct military clash with Russia. “The Westerners are teetering dangerously on the brink of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” Lavrov told a Moscow conference on non-proliferation.

“Of particular concern is the fact that it is the ‘troika’ of Western nuclear states that are among the key sponsors of the criminal Kyiv regime, the main initiators of various provocative steps. We see serious strategic risks in this, leading to an increase in the level of nuclear danger.”

Since the war began, Russia has repeatedly warned of rising nuclear risks - warnings which the United States says it has to take seriously, though U.S. officials say they have seen no change in Russian nuclear posture. As relations have deteriorated, Russia and the United States have both voiced regret about the disintegration of the web of arms-control treaties which sought to slow the Cold War arms race and reduce the risk of nuclear war. Lavrov said that given the current crisis there was no basis for dialogue with the United States on arms control.

“In the context of an all-out hybrid war being waged against us, there is no basis for dialogue with the United States on arms control and strategic stability in general,” he said.

He accused the West of trying to impose restrictions on the nuclear arsenals of Russia and China while developing non-nuclear capabilities in an effort to achieve unilateral military superiority. Lavrov said the West was building a global missile defence system which could decapitate a rival, basing nuclear weapons in Europe, basing medium- and shorter-range missiles in regions around the world and preparing to deploy weapons in space.

In February, Putin said Russia opposed the deployment of nuclear weapons in space, and his defence minister denied Washington’s accusations that Russia was developing a nuclear capability for space.

The United States says it is developing its defence capabilities in accordance with international agreements. It says it wants only the peaceful use of outer space and that its missile defence plans are defensive. Lavrov also accused the West of waging a propaganda campaign to discredit Russia.