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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sidestepped answering whether Russia potentially using chemical weapons in its invasion of Ukraine would spur NATO to rethink imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
“It does sound like what you’re saying is you don’t have an answer yet on what the use of chemical weapons would do to NATO’s stance about Ukraine,” “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd told Stoltenberg Sunday morning.
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“Any use of chemical weapons will be a blatant and brutal violation of international law – the ban on the use of chemical weapons. At the same time we know that Russia has used chemical agents in Europe before against their own political opponents,” Stoltenberg told Todd.
“So this is something we take extremely serious. But at the same time again, we are not … we are very much aware of that we need to act in a way that prevents this conflict from being a very bloody, ugly, horrific conflict in Ukraine to something that turns out to be a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia in Europe,” he added.
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Todd had asked if Russia potentially using chemical weapons would prompt NATO to rethink imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Stoltenberg said that the intergovernmental military alliance’s focus is to protect the 1 billion people living in NATO-allied countries.
“We are doing that by increasing the presence in the eastern part of the alliance. I also believe that regardless of how this conflict now ends, we are faced with a new reality, a new security reality, where Russia more openly contests core values for security and are willing to use military force to achieve its objectives. And therefore we need to reset our deterrence and defense,” he said, noting leaders will discuss further at a meeting in Brussels this week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on foreign leaders to impose a no-fly zone over his country. Stoltenberg and other world leaders, however, have so far rejected imposing a no-fly zone, citing the move could escalate to an all-out war in Europe.
“The only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter planes into Ukrainian airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes,” Stoltenberg said earlier this month “We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe.”
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The US adheres to a policy reaching back to the Cold War of not having direct, kinetic engagement with Russia. A no-fly zone would risk a direct military conflict with the country and has the potential of escalating to a third world war, pitting nuclear power countries such as the US, France and the UK against fellow nuclear power Russia.