Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was a “serious” risk of World War III as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In a TV interview with Russia’s Channel One on Monday (25/4), Lavrov accused the countries of the NATO military alliance of waging a “proxy” war in Ukraine by offering weapons and aid to Ukrainians. This, according to the Russian minister, “throws more gasoline on the fire” — and he said that everything must be done to avoid a Third World War.
Lavrov was asked about a statement made by US President Joe Biden that a nuclear conflict must be avoided.
“The risks are very significant [de uma Terceira Guerra]. I don’t want to artificially inflate it,” Lavrov said, according to a transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry website. “The danger is serious, real. It cannot be underestimated.”
Lavrov said Moscow and Washington should renew the commitment made by former Russian and American leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan that “there can be no winners in a nuclear war.”
The interviewer also asked Lavrov to compare the danger of a nuclear confrontation today with that experienced during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between the US and the Soviet Union.
“During the Cuban missile crisis there weren’t many written rules, but the rules of conduct were clear enough. Moscow understood how Washington was behaving. Washington understood how Moscow was behaving. Now there are few rules left,” Lavrov said.
The UK Armed Forces Minister said the Russian minister’s comments were just “bravado”.
“Lavrov’s hallmark over the 15 or so years that he was Russia’s foreign secretary has been this kind of bravado. I don’t think there is now an imminent threat of escalation,” James Heappey told the BBC.
“What the West is doing to support its allies in Ukraine is very well calibrated.”
Asked about the possibility of Russia using a tactical nuclear weapon, Heappey said he thought there was a “dwindling” possibility of such an escalation. Heappey said that while NATO is strengthening its eastern flank, it is not providing military aid.
The British government claims that it is incorrect to cast the war in Ukraine as a NATO effort against Russia.
“This is not a NATO effort, this is a community of donor nations that are making bilateral contributions to Ukrainians and that donor community extends far beyond NATO’s borders,” the British minister told the BBC.
“It suits the Kremlin narrative to state that they are in some way at odds with NATO. They were saying that even before the war started, but that doesn’t make sense and Lavrov knows it.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulebo said Lavrov’s comments were an attempt by Russia to “scare the world into not supporting Ukraine”.
He said on Twitter that “talk of a ‘real’ danger of World War III only means that Moscow feels it will be defeated in Ukraine”.
The fear of an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine to a nuclear war or even a Third World War (involving NATO and Russia) has been a constant concern since the beginning of the invasion.
In March, days after the invasion began, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his “deterrent forces” were combat-ready – what he understood to be nuclear weapons – in “combat-ready” mode.
This raised fears that Moscow could use “tactical” nuclear weapons – which can be used over relatively short distances. However, so far none of this has been confirmed.
On Tuesday (26/4), British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked if he is concerned that the conflict in Ukraine could escalate to the nuclear level. He replied, “No.”