The post-World War II "global international security order" will be jeopardized if Russia fails to suffer consequences for its unprovoked attack on Ukraine, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told CNN.
Milley, who is the chair for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to CNN on Tuesday following a meeting in Germany with allied countries a little more than two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin began his country's invasion of Ukraine.
"If this is left to stand, if there is no answer to this aggression, if Russia gets away with this cost-free, then so goes the so-called international order, and if that happens, then we're entering into an era of seriously increased instability," Milley told CNN.
"What's at stake is the global international security order that was put in place in 1945. That international order has lasted 78 years. It's prevented great power war. And underlining that entire concept is the idea that large nations will not conduct military aggression against smaller nations.
"And that's exactly what's happened here: an unprovoked military aggression by Russia against a smaller nation."
Milley also criticized Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for warning Ukraine against provoking World War III and saying the threat of a nuclear conflict "should not be underestimated."
"Any time a senior leader of a nation-state starts rattling a nuclear saber, then everyone takes it seriously," Milley told CNN.
The general added the U.S. military was monitoring the nuclear threat from Russia along with "friends and allies."
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who hosted the meeting at Ramstein Air Base, told reporters the U.S. seeks "to make it harder for Russia to threaten its neighbors and leave them less able to do that."
"Their land forces have been attritted in a very significant way," Austin said during a news conference. "Casualties are pretty substantial. They've lost a lot of equipment. They've used a lot of precision-guided munitions. They've lost a major surface combatant. And so, they are, in fact, in terms of military capability, weaker than when they started."
Austin said it important for the U.S. and its NATO allies to provide Ukraine with the military aid it needs.
"We don't have any time to waste," Austin said. "The briefings today laid out clearly why the coming weeks will be so crucial for Ukraine, so we've got to move at the speed of war.
"And I know that all the leaders leave today more resolved than ever to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression and atrocities."
Germany on Tuesday committed to sending 50 Cheetah anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine, which also will receive additional anti-aircraft capabilities from Britain, and eight armored vehicles from Canada, Austin said.
"I applaud all of the countries that have risen and are rising to meet this demand," Austin told reporters.
The secretary said he thought Ukraine "will seek to once again apply to become a member of NATO" in the future.
"I think that NATO will always stand by its principles of maintaining an open door," he said. "So, I don't want to speculate on what could come."
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