Just before Russia-NATO talks kick off in Geneva Monday, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that if negotiations fail the Western military alliance stands ready for “a new armed conflict in Europe.”

He told Financial Times in a fresh interview, “I know the history of Russia. For centuries, they have experienced conflicts with their neighbors. But Russia has an alternative: to cooperate, to work with NATO.”

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It is possible to find together a path, a political path to follow, and also to respond to Russia’s concerns… but there is always a risk of conflict,” he said. “NATO deterrence is credible and strong… We must hope and work hard for the best, but prepare for the worst.”