Russia says it is at war with NATO.
Kremlin officials have warned that Western weapons and aid are only making the conflict in Ukraine worse.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian state media: “Nato, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”
US defense secretary Lloyd Austin said the US wants to see Ukraine remain a democratic country, but also wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
In an apparent response to Austin, Lavrov said Russia has “a feeling that the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight and, as it seems to them, wear out, exhaust the Russian army and the Russian military industrial war complex. This is an illusion.”
As defense ministers gathered in Germany for “very critical” US-hosted talks, Lavrov said the West’s continued aid to Ukraine means the NATO alliance has positioned itself as “in essence engaged in war with Russia”.
What’s more, Lavrov accused NATO of “pouring oil on the fire,” and warned against provoking a third world war and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated”.
“Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War Three,” Lavrov said, adding, “I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”
General Mark Milley, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said a key goal of the talks was to make sure Ukraine is well-equipped to continue defense, including heavy weaponry, well-armed drones, and ammunition.
“The next several weeks will be very, very critical,” Milley said. “They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really the purpose of this conference.”
Speaking after his trip to Ukraine, Austin said: “They [Ukraine] can win if they have the right equipment, the right support.”