EXCLUSIVE: NATO chief calls Putin’s nuclear threat a ‘dangerous’ escalation

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NEW YORK, Sept 21 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin’s unabashed threat to use nuclear weapons following Russia’s setback in Ukraine was “dangerous and reckless rhetoric”, the NATO secretary said. Long said 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 Putin’s announcement of Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II would intensify the conflict and kill more people. However, the NATO chief added that it also proved Putin made a “big mistake” when Russia decided to invade its neighbour on February 2. twenty four.

Speaking to Reuters editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual session, Stoltenberg said the 30-nation Western defence alliance would remain calm and “not would engage in the same reckless and dangerous nuclear rhetoric as President Putin.”

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“The only way to end this war is to prove that President Putin will not win on the battlefield. When he realizes that, he has to sit down and negotiate a reasonable deal with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

In an earlier address to the Russians, Putin announced he would call in 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine and backed plans to annex parts of the country, signaling to the West that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.read more

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people – this is not bluff,” Putin said.

Putin added that Russia has “many weapons to respond”.

Putin’s speech comes amid mounting casualties and battlefield setbacks for Russian troops, which were driven out of areas they occupied in northeastern Ukraine and stranded in the south in Ukraine’s counteroffensive this month.

“President Putin’s speech shows that the war is not going according to President Putin’s plan,” Stoltenberg said.

“He made a big mistake, a strategic mistake,” Stoltenberg said of Putin, while making a grim prediction.

“More troops will escalate the conflict. It will mean more suffering, more loss of life — Ukrainian lives, but also Russian lives,” Stoltenberg said.

Putin said no evidence was provided that NATO officials had threatened to use nuclear weapons against Russia and that Russia “has various means of sabotage.”

Stoltenberg said NATO has not seen any change in Russia’s nuclear posture and readiness, but added that the key is to prevent such an escalation.

“We will make sure that Moscow does not misunderstand the seriousness of the use of nuclear weapons … that is why we have made it so clear in our communications with Russia that the unprecedented consequences of a nuclear war will not be won by Russia.”

‘A tough winter’

Stoltenberg said that despite the rudimentary Russian military equipment and lack of proper command and control, as long as Russia refuses to accept Ukraine as a sovereign and independent state, it will be difficult for the conflict to end in the short term.

Stoltenberg expressed confidence that the entire Western Union will remain united.

“We are ready for a tough winter. Winter is coming and it will be tough for all of us. But the answer is not to step down and stop supporting Ukraine. If anything, the answer is to stand up and go more Support Ukraine from afar,” Stoltenberg added.

Stoltenberg said that if NATO was prepared to deal with Putin “in the long term”, it was now in close dialogue with the defense industry to restore its weapons and ammunition stockpiles.

“We’ve reduced a lot of inventories. We need to prepare inventories. That’s why we are now engaging deeply with the industry,” Stoltenberg said, with the aim of increasing production.

Stoltenberg reiterated his confidence that Sweden and Finland, which had applied to join NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would be approved, although Turkey continued to express concerns about the move.

Stoltenberg said NATO did not see China as an adversary, but expressed concern about the growing cooperation between Beijing and Moscow in military exercises and diplomacy.

“China is part of the security challenge we need to face today,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, has been NATO secretary general since 2014. In March, the NATO ally extended its mandate until September 2023.

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Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in New York and John Chalmers in Brussels; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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