Leading Ukrainian official warns Russia of possible World War III
The stark threat in the headline was made by Leonid Kravchuk, head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group on the Donbass conflict, currently suspended because of Ukraine’s objection to the site of the talks to date, the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The host country is neither a member nor an advanced partner of NATO and as such is viewed by Kiev as being too closely allied with Russia – itself a member of the group with Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Kravchuk’s exact words will be cited in a moment, but first it’s important to establish who it is that made them; that the comments all but threatening a third world war, in the modern era inevitably a nuclear one, were not off-the-cuff casual remarks by a minor bureaucrat, but were those of a person who can fairly be described as the founder of the Ukrainian nation.
In 1991 Kravchuk, Boris Yeltsin and Stanislav Shushkevich – the presidents of the Ukrainian and Russian Soviet Socialist Republics and the parliament chairman of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, respectively – and their three republics’ prime ministers signed the Belavezha Accords dissolving the Soviet Union. In the same month, December, Kravchuk became the first president of an independent Ukraine. He held that post until 1994, the year Ukraine became the first member of NATO’s first military partnership program, the Partnership for Peace, which has been used to prepare the sixteen new members inducted into the military bloc since 1999; all in Eastern Europe, four of them bordering Russia.
Today he was quoted by the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN asserting that Ukraine’s “international partners,” for which read NATO members and partners, have assured his nation that “Ukraine will not be left alone facing Russian aggression,” and that Europe and the U.S. would assist it should such aggression occur or continue.
Indeed by way of confirmation of Kravchuk’s contention, yesterday NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after an emergency meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the alliance’s headquarters:
“We are seriously concerned by ongoing developments. And NATO is monitoring the situation very closely. In recent weeks, Russia has moved thousands of combat-ready troops to Ukraine’s borders. The largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”
Unscheduled visits by the foreign ministers of the four NATO nations near Ukraine – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – have recently occurred or will tomorrow.
Against that backdrop the former Ukrainian head of state said the following, which requires no comment:
“A citizen, a patriot, and a warrior are all part of one. And today I see how people’s awareness is rising in many regions, where people are starting to say that we need to be ready for anything. By saying so, I want to convey to Russia so that they realize, so that the Kremlin realizes, that it will be no parade. If they dare, if they turn insane and go to war against Ukraine, this will mark the start of a large-scale conflict that could escalate into World War 3. It will be no easy movement, as they experienced in Crimea.”
It’s to be feared that for all the bravado contained in the above statement – whether intended as warning or as threat – it may not be such an implausible scenario.