united States Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, expressed sharp criticism, on Tuesday, going by a warning from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding a pending World War III and the possible use of nuclear weapons.
“You’ve heard us say a number of times that that kind of rhetoric is very dangerous and unhelpful,” Austin said following an international conference on supplying weapons to Ukraine held at the U.S. airbase in Ramstein, Germany.
“Nobody wants to see a nuclear war happen. Dangerous rhetoric is clearly unhelpful. And something that we won’t engage in.”
Speaking on Monday, Lavrov said the danger was real and should not be underestimated. He compared the current situation to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
After the Ramstein meeting that drew in some 40 countries, Austin said that an international contact group to support Ukraine’s military would meet monthly in the future.
“The contact group will be a vehicle for nations of goodwill to intensify efforts, coordinate assistance and focus on winning today’s fight and the struggles to come,” he said.
The goal is to provide long-term military support to Ukraine beyond the current crisis. Austin welcomed Germany’s “major decision” to support Ukraine with armoured anti-aircraft systems.
The transfer of 50 of the Cheetah vehicles, known as Gepards in German, marked a “significant” step that brings important additional capabilities to Ukraine, he said.
“We are all determined to help Ukraine win today and build strength tomorrow,” he said, describing the meeting as “an important session on long-term support for Ukraine’s defences, including what that will take from our defence industrial bases.”
The U.S. Department of Defence made clear that the conference was not under NATO auspices. Non-members were among those attending.
Many representatives participated via video.
Speaking at the airbase, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said Ukrainian soldiers were to be trained to use artillery systems on German soil.
President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine meant that Russia had “taken its leave of the circle of civilised nations,” she said.
The situation remained dire in Ukraine on Tuesday, with officials reporting multiple dead and wounded across the country due to continuing Russian attacks.
The Russian military claimed it had captured the entire southern region of Kherson and made territorial gains in eastern areas. It also said it had destroyed four Ukrainian ammunition depots in the Slovyansk area through airstrikes.
According to the Ukrainian account on Tuesday evening, there has been little change in Russian attacks or gains in eastern Ukraine.