NATO has warned that the current conflict in Ukraine, where Russia has been conducting a special military operation, could turn into an unrestrained battle between the Western military alliance and Moscow.
NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sounded the alarm during a press conference in Madrid on Thursday following a summit featuring the alliance's heads of state and government.
"We live in a more dangerous world. And we live in a more unpredictable world. And we live in a world where we have actually a hot war going on in Europe, with large-scale military operations we haven't seen in Europe since the Second World War," he said.
"This can get worse" and turn into "a full-scale war between Russia and NATO," he warned.
He said NATO had already significantly increased its presence on its eastern flank by deploying more than 40,000 troops there.
The military buildup, he said, was meant "to remove any room for miscalculation, misunderstanding in Moscow about our readiness to protect every inch of NATO territory."
Ukraine has been the subject of the Russian operation since February 24. Russia says the operation is aimed at “demilitarizing” the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
Back in 2014, the regions of Donetsk and its neighbor Luhansk—which together form the Donbas—declared themselves independent republics, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s Western-backed government. The declaration of independence was ensued by a conflict between the region’s pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian military.
Ordering the operation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years were suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”
'NATO to fully modernize Ukraine military'
The NATO chief, meanwhile, vowed that the alliance would "help Ukraine transition from old Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO standard equipment."
"Ukraine needs a wide range of modern, heavy NATO-standard equipment, and that’s the message also from this summit."
"We support the idea of bringing a lot of advanced equipment, including also Western modern equipment and many different types of equipment," he added.
The United States as well as Ukraine’s other Western allies have already begun infusing Ukraine’s war machine with millions of dollars in modern weaponry.
Also on Friday, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to send dozens of brand-new armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.
"The light armored vehicles we will be sending over will be extremely effective," Trudeau told reporters as the summit ended. "We're just glad to help and we're going to continue to look and respond to things that they need."
Early last month, Putin warned that his country could start expanding the scope of its offensive in Ukraine if the West upgraded its weapons supplies to the ex-Soviet republic.