NATO must avoid open military conflict with Russia that could increase the risk of nuclear war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published on Friday.
“I have said very early on that we must do everything possible to avoid a direct military confrontation between NATO and a highly armed superpower like Russia, a nuclear power,” Scholz told Der Spiegel magazine.
“I am doing everything to prevent an escalation leading to a third world war. There must be no nuclear war.”
His comments came in the wake of mounting criticism over Germany’s refusal to send heavy weaponry to Ukraine.
Scholz warned that his country could be considered a party to the war if it sends equipment such as tanks.
“That’s why it is all the more important that we consider each step very carefully and coordinate closely with one another. To avoid an escalation towards NATO is a top priority for me,” Scholz said.
“That’s why I don’t focus on polls or let myself be irritated by shrill calls. The consequences of an error would be dramatic,” he added.
In late February, Scholz ended Germany’s longtime policy of not sending arms to conflict zones by authorizing the delivery of hundreds of anti-tank and anti-air missiles to Ukraine.
In an unprecedented policy shift, he also announced a €100 billion ($108 billion) special fund to boost Germany’s military capabilities.