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A top Russian diplomat warned the “pressure” that NATO was putting on Moscow left the bloc “dangerously balancing on the edge of a direct military conflict” with Russia.
Since Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, NATO and the West at large have responded with crippling sanctions against Russia while supplying Ukraine with more and more sophisticated weapons.
Relations between NATO and Russia have fallen to Cold War-era lows sparking fears of all-out conflict between the nuclear-armed states.
“The response measures that we had to take, which included the important aspect of protecting the external security contour on the western axis, have been used by our adversaries as a pretext to start putting military pressure on Russia,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, according to the state-run TASS News Agency.
He warned: “This pressure has been dangerously balancing on the edge of a direct military conflict between nuclear powers.”
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The thinly-veiled nuclear threat comes amid increased calls by Putin’s propagandists for Russia to strike at the West.
Ryabkov blamed NATO for “malicious expansion” and warned the “crisis is far from being resolved and is posing a major risk of further escalation”.
NATO has expanded eastwards since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact something which Russian pundits have seized on to justify Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
However, the Russian President appears to have miscalculated and what was supposed to be a three-day military operation has turned into a brutal, more than year-long conflict in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance.
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As the war continues, NATO members have been providing Ukraine with more advanced Western equipment from HIMARS to main battle tanks.
Russia has treated each move as an escalation but short of an attack there appears to be little the Kremlin can do to punish the West.
Already, crippling sanctions prevent business with Russia and Europe has begun to ween itself off Russian gas completely after winter supply scares.
Still, Russia has an estimated 6,000 nuclear warheads of varying sizes and increasingly hostile rhetoric from Moscow has sparked concern.
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