NATO Says No Need to Raise Nuclear Alert Level Despite Russia's Threats

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that despite Russia's continued attacks in Ukraine, the alliance does not plan change its nuclear alert level.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country's nuclear forces be on high alert, Stoltenberg said that Russia has signed multiple deals saying nuclear war should not be fought, as it could not be won.

"We will always do what is needed to protect and defend our allies, but we don't think there is any need now to change the alert levels of NATO's nuclear forces," he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Just under a week into the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has done plenty of damage, shelling residential areas in the second-largest city of Kharkiv and closing in on the capital of Kyiv. Though representatives from the two nations met on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border Monday for peace talks, the only conclusion they came to was that they will continue talks at a later date.

The Russian government announced its intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and long-range bombers are on high alert. Stoltenberg said in the interview that the way the country has been talking about its nuclear weapons is "reckless and irresponsible."

However, that's not enough for NATO to believe nuclear war is on the horizon. On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden echoed the sentiment, answering "no" when a reporter asked him if Americans should be worried about nuclear war.

During a Monday briefing with reporters, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that after assessing Putin's order, the U.S. government sees "no reason" to change its alert levels.

"We think provocative rhetoric like this regarding nuclear weapons is dangerous, adds to the risk of miscalculation, should be avoided and we will not indulge in it," she said.

Russia has the largest nuclear stockpile in the world, with 4,477 weapons, according to statistics from AP. The U.S. has the second largest, with 3,708. Alan Robock, an environmental sciences professor at Rutgers University, said in a Vox report on potential nuclear warfare that if the nuclear weapons targeted big cities, the large amount of black smoke generated from cities burning would mean "almost everybody on the planet would die."

Though leaders like Stoltenberg have denied the idea of potential nuclear war, they have acknowledged the seriousness of the attacks on Ukrainian soil. In his interview with AP, Stoltenberg said Russia needs to "stop the attacks and withdraw all its forces and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts" to end the violence.

"This is a horrendous, horrific invasion of an innocent country and we see that civilians are killed," he said. "It's a brutality that has to stop immediately."

Update 3/1/22, 12:41 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sees no need to change the nuclear threat level amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Above, Stoltenberg speaks during a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (not pictured) at the Tapa Army Base on March 1, 2022, in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images