Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned on Monday that the risk of a third world war “cannot be underestimated,” and said the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are adding to that risk by supplying weapons to Ukraine.
In a Monday interview with the “Big Game” program on Russian state-run television Channel One, Lavrov said Russia agreed on the “inadmissibility of nuclear war” and said avoiding such conflict is “our principled position.” However, Lavrov warned that “now the risks are very significant.”
“The danger is serious, real. It cannot be underestimated,” Lavrov said.
Throughout the interview, Lavrov criticized the U.S. for the collapse of various nuclear arms control agreements and for building alliances like NATO and AUKUS that could challenge Russia. Lavrov also criticized the U.S. and NATO for supplying arms to Ukraine.
Lavrov said the U.S. and other western nations often speak of trying to avoid World War III, but said they undermine these efforts by arming Ukraine and bolstering its defenses against the ongoing Russian invasion.
“Everyone says that in no case should a third world war be allowed,” Lavrov said. “It is in this context that the constant provocations of the President of Ukraine V.A. Zelensky and his team should be considered. They demand almost the introduction of NATO troops in order to protect the Ukrainian government. But everyone always says that they will give Kyiv weapons. This also adds fuel to the fire. They want to force the Ukrainians to fight with Russia to the last soldier with these arms deliveries, if only this conflict dragged on longer, so that Russia, they hope, would suffer more and more from it.”
Later on in the interview, Lavrov said, “NATO is, in essence, going to war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy.”
Lavrov raised further concerns that the U.S. is not keeping track of the military equipment it has supplied to Ukraine.
“I have read several anonymous statements by the active US military to the question of what happens to these weapons when they cross the Ukrainian border, where they will find their final destination. They said: “We have no information about where all these weapons go,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov particularly criticized the U.S. for supplying man-portable anti-aircraft missile launchers and anti-tank Javelin missiles, which he said could be used for “terrorist attacks.”
Lavrov said western-supplied weapons are making their way into the hands of “neo-Nazi” paramilitary groups like the Azov and Aidar Battalions and other militia groups that are fighting to defend Ukraine but which are not under the full control of the Ukrainian military.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appeared to respond to Lavrov’s comments on Monday by tweeting, “Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security.”
During his interview, Lavrov accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of contradicting himself throughout negotiations with Russia.
Lavrov predicted the ongoing fighting between Russia and Ukraine “will end with a treaty” but said how that treaty looks will “be determined by the stage of hostilities at which this treaty becomes a reality.” A senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal on Monday the U.S. is working to give Ukraine “the strongest possible hand” in peace negotiations going forward.