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NATO will be drawn into war with Russia if Ukraine loses: Lloyd Austin

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned on Thursday that NATO will be drawn into war if Ukraine is defeated by invading Russian forces.

Speaking at a Republican-led House Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss his recent absence while hospitalized for complications from prostate cancer surgery, Austin predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not “stop” if Moscow wins the war in Ukraine.

Austin made the remarks after being asked about Congress failing to approve a $60 billion military aid package for Ukraine, as requested by President Joe Biden. Despite significant bipartisan support for Ukraine aid, the measure has stalled amid a series of partisan disputes over border security and other issues.

“We know that if Putin is successful here, he will not stop,” Austin said. “He will continue to take more aggressive action in the region. And other leaders around the world, other autocrats, will look at this and they’ll be encouraged by the fact that this happened and we failed to support a democracy.”

Russia-Ukraine War NATO Lloyd Austin Putin War

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is pictured on Thursday during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Austin asserted during the hearing that NATO would be hurtled into war with Russia if Moscow…
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is pictured on Thursday during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Austin asserted during the hearing that NATO would be hurtled into war with Russia if Moscow succeeds in defeating Ukraine. Alex Wong

Austin later said that the Baltic nations—Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia—were especially vulnerable to the future expansionist ambitions of Putin. All three countries are NATO members, meaning that Russia would essentially be declaring war on the entire strategic alliance by attacking any single nation.

“If you’re a Baltic state, you’re really worried about whether or not you’re next,” he said. “They know Putin, they know what he’s capable of … And quite frankly, if Ukraine falls, I really believe that NATO will be in a fight with Russia.”

Newsweek reached out for comment to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email on Thursday night.

Tensions between Russia and NATO have been escalating in recent months, with a military buildup occurring along the alliance’s borders with Russia. Officials from Russia and NATO member states have increasingly expressed concerns about the Ukraine war growing to involve the alliance.

Putin cited concerns about NATO expanding as one of his initial reasons for invading Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Regardless, the alliance has continued to grow over the course of the war. Finland joined in April 2023, while its neighbor Sweden looks likely to follow suit later this year.

Sweden’s entry into the alliance would complete the transformation of the Baltic Sea into what some have dubbed “NATO lake,” as the other nations on the body of water are all members. The only exception is the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which is on the Baltic between Lithuania and Poland.

Ukraine has been struggling on the battlefield in recent weeks while dealing with a shortage of ammunition and equipment that could potentially be remedied with more aid. Russian victories over the past two weeks include taking the Dontesk city of Avdiivka on February 17 and three additional settlements close to the city earlier this week.

Earlier during the House hearing on Thursday, Austin said that the U.S. failure to secure more Ukraine aid has sent an unfavorable signal to the world and hindered the Ukrainian military’s confidence and sense of purpose.

“Our allies are troubled by the message that we’re sending,” Austin said. “Certainly, it has impacted the morale of the Ukrainian troops. If we continue down this path, it will be a gift to Putin, and we certainly don’t want that to happen.”

“As others look at this, they will question whether or not we are a dependable ally or dependable partner,” he added. “And that’s very troubling for us as well.”

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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