NATO Ready for War With Russia if it Comes, Blinken Says: 'We Will Defend Every Inch'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the NATO military alliance is "ready" for conflict if it comes but that the U.S. and its allies are not seeking a confrontation with Russia.

Blinken made the remarks in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday where he is meeting with NATO foreign ministers and the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its ninth day.

"Ours is a defensive alliance," Blinken said. "We seek no conflict. But if conflict comes to us we are ready for it and we will defend every inch of NATO territory."

"At the same time, as the secretary-general says, we're preparing for NATO's future and the events of the last few weeks, as they continue, will further inform that future," Blinken said.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the country's government has sought membership of the alliance, which has been opposed by Russia and is one reason for the Russian decision to invade.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said they would defend NATO territory if it were threatened. Several NATO countries share borders with Russia and Ukraine.

Stoltenberg warned on Friday that conditions in Ukraine could get worse in the coming days and stressed that NATO was not a party to the war.

"With cities under siege, schools, hospitals, and residential buildings shelled. Reckless actions around a nuclear power plant last night and many civilians killed or wounded," Stoltenberg said.

"The days to come are likely to be worse, with more death, more sufferings, and more destruction."

The secretary-general continued: "We are not part of this conflict, and we have a responsibility to ensure it does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine. That would be even more devastating and more dangerous, with even more human suffering."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his call for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine on Friday. The alliance is reluctant to do so as that would potentially mean putting NATO aircraft in conflict with Russian forces and possibly escalating the situation.

"We want a no-fly zone because our people are being killed. From Belarus, from Russia—these missiles, these Iskander missiles and bomber planes, are coming," he said.

Zelensky went on to say that if NATO wouldn't impose a no-fly zone, then the alliance should provide Ukraine with planes.

"If you don't have the strength to provide a no-fly zone, then give me planes. Would that not be fair?" the president said.

On Friday, Stoltenberg appeared to rule out a no-fly zone, saying: "Allies agree that we should not have NATO planes operating over Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops on Ukrainian territory."

Newsweek has asked the State Department for comment.

Update 03/04/21 12.33 p.m. ET: This article was updated with new information

Antony Blinken Speaks at a Press Conference
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a joint press conference of the Quad Foreign Ministers meeting at the Park Hyatt on February 11, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Blinken has said NATO is ready for conflict with Russia but is not seeking it. Darrian Traynor/Getty Images