75th anniversary of NATO- A Russia-NATO conflict is just one step from WW3, Putin warns

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West that a direct conflict between Russia and the US-led NATO military alliance would mean the planet was one step away from World War Three but said hardly anyone wanted such a scenario.

The Ukraine war has triggered the deepest crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Putin has often warned of the risks of nuclear war but says he has never felt the need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron last month said he could not rule out the deployment of ground troops in Ukraine in the future, with many Western countries distancing themselves from that while others, especially in eastern Europe, expressed support.
Asked by Reuters about Macron's remarks and the risks and possibility of a conflict between Russia and NATO, Putin quipped: “Everything is possible in the modern world.”
“It is clear to everyone, that this will be one step away from a full-scale World War Three. I think hardly anyone is interested in this,” Putin told reporters after winning the biggest-ever landslide in post-Soviet Russian history.

Putin added, though, that NATO military personnel were present already in Ukraine, saying that Russia had picked up both English and French being spoken on the battlefield.
“There is nothing good in this, first of all for them, because they are dying there and in large numbers,” he said.

NATO foreign ministers meet on Thursday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of their alliance, having agreed to start planning for a greater role in coordinating military aid to Ukraine.
On the second day of a meeting in Brussels, the ministers will mark the signing in Washington on April 4, 1949, of the North Atlantic Treaty that established the transatlantic political and military alliance.
“As we face a more dangerous world, the bond between Europe and North America has never been more important,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
NATO began with 12 members from North America and Europe, founded in response to growing fears that the Soviet Union posed a military threat to European democracies.
At its heart is the concept of collective defense, the idea that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, giving US military protection to Western Europe.
Seventy-five years later, NATO has 32 members and has retaken a central role in world affairs, after Russia’s war in Ukraine prompted European governments to view Moscow once more as a major security threat.
NATO’s two newest members, Finland and Sweden, joined in direct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
“Democratic nations, free people chose to join (NATO) unlike how Russia expands by annexation or illegal aggression,” Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told reporters.
Russia said on Wednesday that NATO had returned to a Cold War mindset. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters NATO had no place in the “multipolar world” Moscow says it seeks to build to end US dominance.
NATO ministers agreed to start planning for a greater NATO role in coordinating security assistance and training for Ukraine.
Under a proposal by Stoltenberg, NATO would take over work done by a US-led ad-hoc coalition known as the Ramstein group, in part to guard against any cut in US support if Donald Trump returns to the White House, diplomats said.
Stoltenberg has also proposed a fund of 100 billion euros (about $108 billion) to support Ukraine’s military over five years, according to diplomats.
It is not clear whether that figure will be accepted by NATO, which takes decisions by consensus.
Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins said there had generally been a “positive attitude” toward the proposal, but that details would now need to be worked out ahead of a leaders’ summit in Washington in July.
On Thursday, the ministers will also meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Kuleba said he would press them to provide more Patriot air defense systems to protect against frequent Russian ballistic missile attacks.
“Partners did provide us with their different (air defense) systems, we appreciate that, but it’s just simply insufficient, given the scale of the war,” Kuleba said.
NATO countries could spare more Patriots if they had the political will to do so, he said.

Buffer zone
Ahead of the March 15-17 Russian election, Ukraine stepped up attacks against Russia, shelling border regions and even used proxies to try to pierce Russia’s borders.
Asked if he considered it necessary to take Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Putin said if the attacks continued, Russia would create a buffer zone out of more Ukrainian territory to defend Russian territory.
“I do not exclude that, bearing in mind the tragic events taking place today, we will be forced at some point, when we deem it appropriate, to create a certain ‘sanitary zone’ in the territories today under the Kyiv regime,” Putin said.
He declined to give any further details but said such a zone might have to be big enough to preclude foreign-made armaments from reaching Russian territory.
Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, triggering a major European war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on one side and pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian proxies on the other.
Putin said he wished Macron would stop seeking to aggravate the war in Ukraine and play a role in finding peace: “It seems that France could play a role. All is not lost yet.”
“I’ve been saying it over and over again and I’ll say it again. We are for peace talks, but not just because the enemy is running out of bullets,” Putin said.
“If they really, seriously, want to build peaceful, good-neighborly relations between the two states in the long term, and not simply take a break for rearmament for 1.5-2 years.”

US democracy
Putin dismissed US and Western criticism of the election, which the White House said was not free and fair, saying US elections were not democratic and criticizing the use of state power against Donald Trump.
“The whole world is laughing at what is happening there,” Putin said of the United States. “It is just a catastrophe — it is not democracy — what on earth is it?“
When asked about the fate of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in unexplained circumstances at a Russian prison in the Arctic on Feb. 16, Putin said he had simply “passed away” using Navalny’s name for one of the first times in public.
Putin said he had agreed several days before Navalny’s death to swap him. Reuters reported in February that a prisoner exchange deal had been agreed for Navalny shortly before his death.
“I said: ‘I am agreed’,” Putin said about his approval of the prisoner swap. “I had one condition — we exchange him but he never returns.”
Navalny’s widow, Yulia, has accused Putin of killing her husband. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that claim was simply wrong.

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