UK warns of Russia-NATO conflict
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned that the crisis in Ukraine could spill over into a direct conflict between Russia and NATO nations if Western powers “don't stand up to Putin now.”
“If we don't stop Putin in Ukraine we are going to see others under threat – the Baltics, Poland, Moldova, and it could end up in a conflict with NATO,” Truss told Sky News on Sunday.
“We do not want to go there,” she said.
The British FM’s comments come as Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine enters its fourth day. Moscow has insisted that it is targeting only military infrastructure in an effort to “demilitarize” the country and defend the people of the newly-recognized Donbass republics against aggression from Kiev. Ukraine says the attack was unprovoked.
Pointing to Russia’s “strong forces,” and Ukainians’ determination to “stand up for their sovereignty,” Truss also predicted the current crisis could last a “number of years.”
“We need to be prepared for a very long haul,” Truss said.
A number of European nations announced on Sunday that they were willing to supply Ukraine with more weapons and ammunition, following calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for more direct assistance. On Saturday, Germany backtracked on a previous refusal to send weapons to Ukraine, saying it would now supply Kiev with anti-tank missiles and ‘Stinger’ air defense systems “as soon as possible.”
Moscow launched its military offensive in Ukraine on February 24, prompting the West to impose a raft of new sanctions on Russia, ranging from airspace closures to the suspension of visas, and personal sanctions aimed at President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The US, UK, and EU are also preparing to cut “selected Russian banks” off from the international SWIFT payments system.
On Saturday, the Kremlin said Kiev had rejected an offer for negotiations and resumed its military operation after a brief pause. Both sides, however, have indicated a willingness to negotiate, with Russia sending a delegation to Belarus for talks. Kiev, however, refused to send negotiators, saying that Russia has been using Belarusian territory to stage attacks on Ukraine.