NATO chief fears Ukraine war could spiral into wider conflict between West and Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg fears that the war in Ukraine could spiral into a wider conflict between NATO and Russia.
(Terje Bendiksby / NTB Scanpix)

The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is concerned that the fighting in Ukraine could spin out of control and become a war between Russia and NATO, according to an interview released Friday.

“If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in remarks to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

“It is a terrible war in Ukraine. It is also a war that can become a full-fledged war that spreads into a major war between NATO and Russia,” he said. “We are working on that every day to avoid that.”


Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, said in the interview that “there is no doubt that a full-fledged war is a possibility,” adding that it was important to avoid a conflict “that involves more countries in Europe and becomes a full-fledged war in Europe.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly accused NATO allies of effectively becoming a party to the conflict by providing Ukraine with weapons, training its troops and feeding military intelligence to attack Russian forces.

Speaking Friday via video link to defense and security chiefs of several former Soviet republics, Russian President Vladimir Putin again accused the West of using Ukraine as a tool against his country.

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“For many years, the West shamelessly exploited and pumped out its resources, encouraged genocide and terror in the Donbas and effectively turned the country into a colony,” Putin said. The Donbas, where Kremlin-backed separatists launched war in 2014, is Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

“Now it’s cynically using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder, as a ram against Russia by continuing to supply Ukraine with weapons and ammunition, sending mercenaries and pushing it to a suicidal track,” Putin said.

Ukrainians say they are fighting for freedom against an aggressor that invaded their sovereign country.


Heavy fighting continued Friday in eastern and southern Ukraine.

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Ukraine’s presidential office said five civilians have been killed and 13 have been wounded by Russian shelling in the last 24 hours.

Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said the Russians were pressing an offensive on Bakhmut with daily attacks, despite taking heavy casualties.

“You can best describe those attacks as cannon fodder,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “They are mostly relying on infantry and less on armor, and they can’t advance.”

In neighboring Luhansk, regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the Ukrainian military was pushing its counteroffensive toward Kreminna and Svatove.

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He voiced hope that Ukraine could reclaim control of Kreminna by year’s end, and then by the end of winter reclaim areas in the region that were captured by Russia since the war began.

In the south, Kherson regional Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevych said eight civilians were wounded by Russian shelling in the last 24 hours, and in the city of Kherson, which Ukraine recaptured last month, a children’s hospital and a morgue were damaged.


In the neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces shelled Nikopol and Chervonohryhorivka, which are across the Dnieper River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Zaporizhzhia Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian shelling damaged residential buildings and power lines.

In the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, Gov. Oleh Sinegubov said three civilians were wounded by Russian shelling, with one later dying.