NATO chief calls Putin's nuclear threat a 'dangerous' escalation

STORY: STOLTENBERG: "This is dangerous and reckless nuclear rhetoric..."

The chief of NATO on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin's thinly veiled threat to use nuclear weapons was "dangerous and reckless."

STOLTENBERG: "He [Putin] knows very well that a nuclear war should never fought and cannot be won and will have unprecedented consequences for Russia."

In an exclusive interview, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters Editor in Chief Alessandra Galloni that Putin will not win the war in Ukraine despite his order to call up hundreds of thousands of extra troops, in Russia's first mobilization since World War Two.

STOLTENBERG: "The speech and partial mobilization of the armed forces of Russia just demonstrate that he miscalculated, he made a big strategic mistake, and that's the reason they now have to do this."

Putin earlier on Wednesday called up 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine and backed a plan to annex parts of that country.

He also hinted a readiness to use nuclear weapons, saying "If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people - this is not a bluff."

The announcement followed mounting casualties and battlefield setbacks for Russian forces, who beat a humiliating retreat from parts of northeast Ukraine after Kyiv launched a counter-offensive this month.

GALLONI: "What does Ukraine need now, and what does the West need to give?

STOLTENBERG: "We have stepped up both when it comes to magnitude but also the quality of the weapons we are providing..."

But Stoltenberg was not optimistic the war in Ukraine would end any time soon.

STOLTENBERG: "It's hard to see a solution in the short term as long as Russia doesn't accept that

Ukraine is a sovereign independent nation. So I'm afraid that the only way to end this is to prove that President Putin will not win on the battlefield. When he realizes that, he has to sit down and negotiate a reasonable agreement with Ukraine."