NATO chief warns Russia against crossing a “very important border” by using nuclear weapons in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin would cross a “very important line” if he ordered the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Thursday, as both the military alliance and Russia are set to hold nuclear exercises in the coming days.

ATO is holding its exercise titled ‘Steadfast Noon’ next week. The long-planned maneuvers are conducted around the same time each year and last about a week. They include fighter jets that can carry nuclear warheads but no live bombs.

Russia usually holds its own exercises around the same time, and NATO expects Moscow to exercise its nuclear forces sometime this month. Stoltenberg said NATO will “closely monitor” what Russia is up to.

When asked what NATO would do if Russia launched a nuclear attack, Stoltenberg said: “We won’t go into detail about how we will respond, but of course this will fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It will mean that a very important line has been crossed.”

He added that “even any use of a smaller nuclear weapon will be a very serious matter that will fundamentally change the nature of the war in Ukraine, and of course that would have consequences.”

Stoltenberg’s comments came after a meeting of NATO’s secret Nuclear Planning Group among defense ministers in Brussels, as concerns deepened over Putin’s insistence that he would use any means necessary to defend Russian territory.

The meeting, which usually takes place once or twice a year, comes amid high tensions as some NATO allies, led by the US, provide Ukraine with advanced weapons and ammunition to defend against Russian airstrikes.

NATO is watching Russia’s moves in its war with Ukraine closely, but has so far seen no change in its nuclear stance. But Putin’s nuclear drills could make it harder for NATO to understand Russia’s intentions, potentially increasing the risk of an accident.

“Russia will also conduct its annual drill, I believe, in the week after or shortly after the annual drill,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told reporters on Wednesday. But “what we don’t want is to do things out of the ordinary.”

“This is a routine exercise and it’s all about preparedness,” Wallace said, just like “the NATO meeting is about making sure we’re prepared for anything. I mean, that’s the job of this alliance – to make sure the 30 partners together are ready for whatever’s thrown at us. And we have to keep working on that.”

Fourteen NATO member states will be involved in Steadfast Noon, planned before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The bulk of the maneuvers will take place more than 1,000 kilometers from Russia.

NATO as an organization has no weapons. The nuclear weapons nominally linked to the alliance remain under the firm control of three member countries – the US, Britain and France. But France insists on maintaining its nuclear independence and does not attend meetings of the nuclear planning group.

As the Russian army retreated in some places when confronting Ukrainian forces armed with Western weapons, Putin upped the ante by annexing four Ukrainian regions and declaring partial mobilization to shore up the crumbling front line.

As his war plans have gone awry, Putin has repeatedly signaled that he might resort to nuclear weapons to protect Russian assets. The threat also aims to stop NATO countries from sending more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.

In an interview with France 2 TV, French President Emmanuel Macron hinted that France would not respond with a nuclear strike and warned of leaders’ responsibility when it comes to nuclear rhetoric. He said he spoke to Putin “several times”.

“We have a (nuclear) doctrine, that’s clear,” said Macron. “The deterrent works. But the less we talk about it, the less we wield the threat, the more credible we are.”

“Too many people talk about it,” he said. NATO chief warns Russia against crossing a “very important border” by using nuclear weapons in Ukraine

Fry Electronics Team

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