Chris Lange, FISM News
A Russian Security Council official said on Thursday that Ukraine’s admission into NATO would be “suicidal” and “guaranteed” to bring about World War III.
“Kyiv is well aware that such a step would mean a guaranteed escalation to World War III,” Russia’s TASS news agent quoted Alexander Venediktov, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, as saying.
“The suicidal nature of such a step is understood by NATO members themselves,” he continued.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a surprise bid to fast-track admission into the U.S.-led military alliance just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin finalized the illegal annexation of four regions in Ukraine on Sept. 30.
The potential for Ukraine to join the alliance was one of the main reasons cited by Putin to justify the unprovoked Feb. 24 invasion. The Kremlin leader has long accused the U.S. of leading an effort to expand NATO eastward.
While Zelenskyy has amassed broad support for Ukraine among NATO members, admission into the alliance is far from guaranteed, since it would require unanimous approval.
Russia’s invasion brought about perhaps the most consequential expansion of the intergovernmental military alliance in decades with the anticipated addition of historically nonaligned Sweden and Finland. Slovakia is the latest nation to formally approve the Nordic countries’ memberships, with only Hungary and Turkey remaining.
Moscow also threatened that Swedish and Finnish NATO membership could trigger World War III.
NATO nuclear group meets amid rising tensions
Ahead of today’s planned summit of NATO defense ministers in Brussels that will include closed-door talks by the alliance’s Nuclear Planning Group, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed America’s commitment to the alliance’s collective defense in the face of Russia’s escalating threats to use nuclear weapons.
“We are committed to defending every inch of NATO’s territory – if and when it comes to that,” Austin said, according to an Associated Press report.
NATO has not publicly provided any details of today’s discussions but said that its nuclear policy is under “constant review and is modified and adapted in light of new developments.”
A senior NATO official said on Wednesday that a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine would “almost certainly be drawing a physical response from many allies, and potentially from NATO itself.”
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last month the United States has made clear to Moscow the “catastrophic consequences” it would face if it used a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, without elaborating as to what they might be.
In his opening remarks at a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group today, Austin said: “The whole world has just seen yet again the malice and cruelty of Putin’s war of choice, rooted in aggression, and waged with deep contempt for the rules of war,” referring to Russia’s repeated strikes and evidence of war atrocities targeting innocent civilians, according to a Pentagon news release.
Russian missile and drone strikes continue
For the fourth consecutive morning, air raid sirens rang out across Ukraine’s capital region as Iranian-made kamikaze drones rained down in early morning attacks by Russian forces. As of this reporting, casualties, if any, from the latest barrage have not been announced. Kyiv officials did say that 13 people were killed and 37 injured over the past 24 hours as Kremlin forces launched missile strikes throughout the country.
Deputy head of the presidential office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Telegram that “critical infrastructure facilities” in the area were hit overnight. Elsewhere, Russian shelling destroyed a multi-level apartment building in the city of Mykolaiv on Ukraine’s southern front. The city’s regional governor Vitali Kim said rescue workers managed to pull an 11-year-old boy out of the rubble where he had been trapped for six hours. They continue to search for other survivors.
Kim said the five-story building was struck by an S-300 missile typically used to target military aircraft. Russia has reportedly been using the missiles for imprecise ground strikes, an indication that Moscow’s forces are facing dwindling stocks of weapons.