NATO’s secretary general warned on Friday that Russia’s war in Ukraine could expand into a wider war with the Atlantic alliance.
The official, Jens Stoltenberg, repeatedly cautioned in media interviews this week against underestimating the situation in Ukraine and emphasized the wider threat President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could pose to Europe.
“If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong,” Mr. Stoltenberg said in an interview released on Friday with the Norwegian journalist Anne Lindmo, in which he added that there was “no doubt” a full-blown war against NATO was a “real possibility.”
“I understand everyone who is tired of supporting Ukraine. I understand everyone who thinks that food prices and the electricity bills are far too high,” he said. “But we have to pay a much higher price if our freedom and peace are threatened through Putin winning in Ukraine.”
Mr. Stoltenberg’s comments came two days after he said that Russia was intentionally stalling the war in order to prepare a renewed onslaught against Ukrainian forces next year.
“What we see now is that Russia is actually attempting to have some kind of ‘freeze’ of this war, at least for a short period of time, so they can regroup, repair, recover, and then try to launch a bigger offensive next spring,” he told The Financial Times on Wednesday.
The NATO chief emphasized the importance of continued military support for Ukraine, saying that Russia had shown no sign of willingness to engage in peace talks that would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty. But he declined to answer when pressed on whether NATO’s member nations should agree to provide more advanced, long-range offensive weaponry — something NATO allies, including the United States, have avoided to keep from inviting a direct confrontation with Russia.
The U.S. State Department reiterated after drone strikes hit Russian military bases this week that it was neither enabling nor encouraging Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.
The Pentagon has continued providing other forms of security assistance to Kyiv, and on Friday announced a new aid package valued up to $275 million that includes additional HIMARS ammunition, air defense equipment and approximately 150 generators for Ukraine’s worsening winter.