Politics

Ready to Nuke West Over Ukraine

Russian President again threatens West with nuclear war if it becomes more involved in his invasion of Ukraine, but moderates remarks by saying while he is ready to strike, he believes the United States will exercise “restraint”.

Vladimir Putin faces re-election this week for a fifth term in office — a vote Western observers say isn’t fair and free and is essentially a rubber-stamping exercise — and gave a pre-election interview to Russian television where he once again made remarks on the potential for nuclear war over Ukraine. Broadcast Wednesday morning, the interview saw Putin assert his country was absolutely ready to use its nuclear arsenal but said he did not see the world “rushing to it” yet.

Warning Russian military doctrine absolutely called for nuclear retaliation if the Russian government, the nation’s sovereignty or independence were threatened, Putin told the broadcaster that “we are ready for this… from the military, technical viewpoint, we are prepared”.

Making reference to comments by France’s Emmanuel Macron about the possibility of NATO states deploying troops to Ukraine — a position he has doubled down on despite outrage from fellow alliance leaders about the danger of such remarks — Putin said: “the nations that say they have no red lines regarding Russia should realize that Russia won´t have any red lines regarding them either.”

Again making a clear reference to Western boots on the ground in Ukraine, Putin quipped he hadn’t used battlefield tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine yet because there hadn’t been the need so far.

Yet the Russian President, who is likely to ‘win’ another six years in power this week moderated the war talk by saying he wouldn’t feel obliged to launch nuclear weapons if Western states would just do as he tells them. He expects NATO states to keep their troops out of Ukraine, he said, and even that he was ready to enter negotiations with the West on the future of the country he invaded but only if those talks were based on what he called “realities”.

Doubtless, those realities include acknowledging Russia’s position that Ukrainian regions it holds are now actually part of Russia, something Kyiv and its allies obviously reject, leaving the realistic prospect for talks remote still.

The interview is the second nuclear threat from Putin himself in as many weeks. In late Februrary, the President used his state of the nation address to warn of “tragic” consequences for enhanced NATO involvement in Ukraine, while emphasising the “full readiness” of his nuclear arsenal. He said of Western leaders: “Don’t they understand it? … Those people haven’t been through any tough challenges and they have forgotten what war means.”

Putin was more obliging about the state of the Western leadership today, however, telling President Biden that he’s too smart to trigger a nuclear war. There are enough experts in the U.S., he said, who understand “Russian-American relations and strategic restraint”, meaning “I don’t think that everything is going to go head-on here, but we are ready for it”.

The Russian President making such frequent nuclear threats is somewhat unusual, given the unedifying job is generally left to an underling, like Foreign Minister Lavrov, spokesman Peskov, or former President Dmitry Medvedev, who has practically made a career from threatening nuclear armageddon in recent years.  As previously reported Medvedev has even threatened to drop the bomb on the International Criminal Court in the Hague after the body issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin over suspected crimes.



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