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NATO’s chief says Russia could invade Ukraine ‘without any warning’


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg posed the question that has been keeping the world at edge for weeks: will Russia strike Ukraine?

Not even those in the Russian government — besides President Vladimir Putin — appear to know the answer, but the fact remains that there has been a steady buildup of Russian troops and military hardware near the Ukraine border; the largest since the end of the Cold War.

Russia has all the capability to attack Ukraine with no warning, Stoltenberg said. Stoltenberg said that Russia is equipped with all the necessary forces, as stated by Hadley Gamble of CNBC at Saturday’s Munich Security Conference. The question now is: Will they attack?

More than 150,000 Russian troops have been stationed along the Ukrainian border. Belarus is an ally to Ukraine and Russian forces are also stationed in it.

Stoltenberg made these comments as Russia launched cruise and ballistic missiles Saturday to show its nuclear capability. This was part of “a planned exercise by the strategic deterrence troops,” according to the Kremlin.

In this handout photo, February 18th 2022 shows service members from the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces participating in tactical drills on a ground at an unidentified location in Ukraine.

via Reuters| via Reuters

Aerospace Forces launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. According to the Russian presidency, ships and submarines from both the Black and Northern Sea Fleets successfully launched Kalibr cruise missiles as well as Zirkon hypersonic weapons at sea and land targets,” Saturday’s statement read.

“All tasks envisioned during the exercise strategic deterrence were complete, all missiles struck their targets and confirmed the stated characteristics.”

High risk

Stoltenberg reaffirmed his assessment: “NATO allies, the United States and I have the same assessment. It’s very high that Russia will attack Ukraine.”

Russia’s military released a statement this week stating that some troops would be being withdrawn to celebrate the close of exercises. Markets were relieved, but Western leaders stressed that there was no indication of any reduction of forces in Ukraine.

Also of concern is “the very threatening rhetoric,” the NATO chief added, noting that, “we have seen attempts by Russia to stage a pretext — the Ukraine situation in Donbas or somewhere else — as an excuse for attacking Ukraine. False accusations have been made about genocide and there have been accusations that Donbas has violated ceasefires. All of these things add to the evidence that Russia is in real danger of an attack.

Local resident in the Ukrainian-controlled Luhansk area, Stanytsia Luhanska cleans up the debris left behind by the Russian-backed separatists’ shelling on February 18, 2022.

Aleksey Filippov AFP | AFP | Getty Images

Russia has been accused by the U.S. plotting to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces as a pretext for the invasion of its neighbor. In February, the White House stated that Russian intelligence suggests it may use a video of an attack by Ukraine featuring actors.

Kremlin denies it’s preparing “false flag” operation.

This accusation is made amid an extended period of intensified tensions between Russia, Ukraine and NATO. NATO and the U.S. are concerned about the escalating geopolitical crisis.

T-72B3 tanks from the Russian Southern Military District’s 150th Rifle Division participate in military exercises.

Getty Images | TASS | Getty Images

—CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt and Sam Meredith contributed to this report.