Ukraine could unleash a world war by attacking Crimea, if it becomes a full-fledged NATO member, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned.
“For us, Crimea is part of Russia. And that will be so forever. Any attempt to infringe upon Crimea is a declaration of war against our nation. If a NATO member does that, it would mean a conflict with the entire North Atlantic Alliance. World War III. Total disaster,” he said in an interview with the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty published on Tuesday.
Crimea broke away from Ukraine after the 2014 armed coup in Kiev, and voted to re-join Russia in a referendum. The move was rejected by Ukraine, which considers the peninsula a Russian-occupied territory. Ukrainian officials have said that the pledge to not use Western-supplied weapons against Russian territory does not apply to Crimea.
Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy chair of the Security Council of Russia, described the scenario while commenting on why NATO expansion into Ukraine would be more dangerous than Finland and Sweden joining the alliance. He said Russia does not like the proposed expansion in Northern Europe, but can live with it.
“We don’t have and don’t expect to have any territorial disputes with those nations, or even possible causes for one. If they feel better and safer by joining the alliance, let them have it. NATO is already next to our nation without Sweden and Finland,” he said.
This, however, comes with the caveat that Russia would react to the expected admission of the Nordic nations by deploying nuclear weapons in the Baltic, among other things, Medvedev noted. “Nobody is excited about that, including the citizens of the two NATO candidates. Having our Iskander [tactical missiles], hypersonic missiles and nuclear-armed warships on one’s doorstep is not something to be thrilled about.”
He added that the escalation of tensions with Russia will require military buildup in Finland and Sweden, with resources that could be used to fund civilian programs being poured into defense instead. Medvedev described this as “senseless and not cheap.”