While Western countries have assailed Russia for its aggressive behavior in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow has a lot of better things to do than starting World War 3. In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera over the weekend, Putin tried to quell fears over the possibility of World War 3 between Russia and NATO.

Vladimir Putin Tries To Quell World War 3 Fears

Only a sick person can imagine World War 3

Putin told the Italian newspaper that there was no need to be afraid of Russia. The world has changed dramatically. The Russian President said “people in their right mind cannot imagine” World War 3. He told the Italian newspaper that only a “sick person — and even then only in his sleep — can imagine” a major conflict between Russia and NATO.

Putin’s comments come as he is scheduled to meet Pope Francis on Wednesday, June 10th. The Catholic leader has repeatedly appealed for peace in Ukraine. Interestingly, Pope Francis said last year after Russia annexed Crimea that World War 3 was already underway. Putin’s latest statement is quite different from what he said during a private meeting with the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Putin backs off from his aggressive past statements

Putin told them, “If I wanted, in two days I could have Russian troops not only in Kiev, but also in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest.” But now the Russian leader seems to have backed off. He stressed during the interview with the Italian newspaper that we shouldn’t take the “Russian aggression scaremongering” in Western countries seriously.

Recently, billionaire investor George Soros said that the possibility of World War 3 starting soon was “no exaggeration.” But Soros believes China would trigger the next World War, not Russia. China is aggressively building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a move the U.S. has opposed. China has accused the U.S. of “meddling” in its affairs.