Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that while his country holds to the principal of the “inadmissibility of nuclear war,” the danger of such a conflict occurring is “serious, real” and “cannot be underestimated.”
Lavrov’s remark in a lengthy interview on state television came on the same day as President Vladimir Putin accused the West of trying to “destroy Russia from within,” and after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the U.S. wants to see “Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
Lavrov recalled that Putin and President Biden at their Geneva summit last June had reaffirmed the position that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” a stance then jointly endorsed by the five declared nuclear-armed powers in a Russia-led initiative early this year.
“All five leaders signed under the statement of the inadmissibility of nuclear war,” he told the Russian Channel One’s “The Great Game” program, referring to the leaders of the U.S., Russia, China, France, and Britain.
But while Russia starts from that “principled position,” he continued, the risks of nuclear war now are “very significant.”
“I don’t want them artificially inflated. There are many who would wish for it,” Lavrov said. “The danger is serious, real. It cannot be underestimated.”
Lavrov said while “everyone” was saying that World War III should not be allowed to break out, the West’s provision of weapons to Ukraine “adds fuel to the fire.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sits with President Vladimir Putin ahead of Putin’s summit with President Biden in Geneva last June. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
“They want to force the Ukrainians to fight with Russia to the last soldier with these arms deliveries, if only this conflict dragged on longer, so that Russia, they hope, would suffer more and more from it.”
At a press conference earlier in the day in Poland after an unannounced visit to Kyiv with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Austin referred to weakening Russia as a U.S. aim in supporting Ukraine.
“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,” the retired U.S. Army general said in reply to a question about U.S. “goals for success” in Ukraine.
“So it has already lost a lot of military capability, and a lot of its troops, quite frankly,” he said. “And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”
Asked about those remarks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Austin was talking about preventing Putin from extending his military “aspirations” beyond Ukraine.
While the U.S. was proud of the Ukrainians’ success in fighting back against the invading Russian forces, “we are also looking to prevent them from expanding their efforts and President Putin’s objectives beyond that, too,” she told a press briefing.
Russian leaders appear nonplussed by the fact the West wants Ukraine to be successful in defending itself against what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” – and the White House describes as an “unprovoked and unjustified invasion.”
“To our surprise, high-ranking diplomats in Europe and the United States are urging their Ukrainian satellites to use their resources to win on the battlefield,” Putin said during a meeting on Monday with the board of the Russian prosecutor-general’s office.
“Our partners in the United States are using such strange diplomacy – diplomats are even calling for this,” he added.
Having failed to achieve that goal, Putin said, they were now trying “to destroy Russia from within,” but were failing there as well.
(He went on to accuse U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence agencies of collaborating in an alleged plot by “neo-Nazis” to kill a prominent pro-Kremlin Russian journalist.)
Putin did not elaborate on which “diplomats in Europe and the United States” he was referring to. On the European side, he may have been responding to E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who after a visit to Kyiv earlier this month declared on Twitter that, “This war will be won on the battlefield.”
Russia’s foreign ministry in reaction accused the E.U. of pursuing a “proxy war (against Russia) to the last Ukrainian.”
During a phone conversation with European Council president Charles Michel late last week, Putin drew attention “to the irresponsible statements by E.U. officials about the need to resolve the situation in Ukraine by force of arms,” according to a Kremlin readout.
Moscow has long accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “contain” Russia. In his February 24 address announcing the invasion of Ukraine, Putin said:
“For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends. For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to our interests but to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty. It is the red line which we have spoken about on numerous occasions. They have crossed it.”
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