Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested on Wednesday that World War III “may have already started” due to Russia’s invasion of his country during an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt.
Zelensky has used increasingly dire rhetoric in an attempt to draw the U.S. and NATO into the war on the side of Ukraine.
Holt asked Zelensky if he understood why President Joe Biden has been careful not to get the U.S. into a hot war with nuclear-armed Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
That America and Russia must avoid direct conflict in order to avoid global nuclear war has been the understanding of policy makers on both sides since shortly after the Soviet Union’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
In responding to Holt’s question, Zelensky contended that “nobody knows” whether World War III “may have already started.”
Ukraine’s president told Holt through a translator, “Well, nobody knows whether it may have already started and what is the possibility of this war if Ukraine will fall, in case Ukraine will fall. It’s very hard to say, and we’ve seen this 80 years ago when the Second World War had started, and there were similar tragedies in history.”
Zelenksy noted that he believes few can predict when a “full-scale” world war might begin.
“Nobody would be able to predict when the full-scale war would start and how it will end and how Putin ends to that. In any case, the war tends to end up in millions of people lost, people die, millions of buildings destroyed,” Zelensky said. “Now we have different technologies, nuclear weapons; in this case, we have the whole civilization at stake.”
The Ukrainian leader said he had faith in the strength of his people and that they would triumph in the end.
“This is what our people have clearly demonstrated,” Zelensky observed.
Earlier this week, Zelensky said he realizes Ukraine cannot be in NATO, the possibility of which many see as a reason for Russia’s aggression toward the country.
“It is clear that Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We understand that,” Zelensky said. “We are adequate people.”
Still, Zelensky’s repeated request has been that the U.S./NATO set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The Hill notes:
The administration has also pulled back from earlier support of providing Ukraine with Soviet-era fighter jets from Poland, saying that the risk of provoking Russia further outweighed the benefits for Ukrainian forces.
Zelensky dismissed that, saying, “I need to protect our skies.”
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