Putin’s increased nuclear risk over Ukraine raises concerns

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Russia’s new call to issue a nuclear warning to the West and redouble its war in Ukraine has heightened US fears of a possible nuclear conflict.

In a rare national speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the mobilization of about 300,000 additional troops for the nearly seven-month-long conflict, making explicit threats about deploying Moscow’s nuclear stockpile in the process.

The warnings, which come as Moscow appears to be struggling in its military campaign against Kiev, indicate Putin feels his vulnerability and has no choice but to intensify his threats, experts say.

“Putin is a master of deceitful tactics and deception, and to some extent we ignore at our peril, the threats he makes, especially in the nuclear field,” career Amb said. Thomas Pickering, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Russia.

“While large numbers of Americans want to ignore them or believe they are so far-fetched or irrational that they will somehow fail to materialize … his warnings should be taken very seriously,” Pickering told The Hill.

Putin has repeatedly made veiled nuclear threats to the West since his February 24 invasion of Ukraine, although US officials have generally downplayed fears that the Russian leader would continue such saber-rattling.

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But his warnings on Wednesday — accusing the US and its allies of “nuclear blackmail” and moving to “destroy” his country — had a more menacing tone.

“I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and that some parts are more modern than those of NATO countries,” Putin boasted in the pre-recorded and nationally televised speech.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will of course use all available means to protect Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff,” he added.

Officials say the Biden administration is taking Putin’s latest speech quite seriously this time around.

“It’s irresponsible rhetoric for a nuclear power to talk that way, but it’s not atypical of how he’s spoken for the past seven months, and we take it seriously,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. , to TBEN’s “Good Morning America. “We’re keeping a close eye on their strategic stance so we can change ours if we need to.”

And President Biden, speaking to world leaders at the UN General Assembly later on Wednesday, called Putin’s most recent nuclear threats a “reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime.”

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National security analysts believe the move in Putin’s rhetoric is a telling sign of his fear of losing the war and his grip on power in Russia.

The Kremlin has taken a series of embarrassing blows since the beginning of the month, when Ukraine, aided with Western support and weapons, launched a counter-offensive and took back large swaths of its territory.

Reports came in of Russian troops fleeing their positions, in some cases back across the Russian border, leaving behind valuable weapons and equipment.

The losses sparked rare and intense criticism of Putin from his own politicians and leaders, some of whom called for him to resign. Others demanded an end to the conflict or a change of tactics.

“President Putin’s speech shows that the war is not going according to President Putin’s plans. He made a big miscalculation,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters.

Pickering, who served as US ambassador to Russia in the mid-1990s, believes Putin

feels the pressure of the failures of the war and now has his eye on staying in power by whatever means possible.

“He’s now in the sort of cubicle where these two threats he’s put forward are. . . somehow designed to ensure he both stays in power and dominates the leadership scene in Russia,” Pickering said.

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He warned that Putin could further exploit his nuclear arsenal, especially as his own situation becomes more dangerous, and that the West would do well to refrain from making trade threats with him.

“I think he knows very well that if he starts something that leads to a nuclear exchange, it can get so far out of hand very quickly and nobody would know how to stop it. And that’s what I’ve been afraid of for years,” he said. pickering.

“I think right now, seeing this, I’m deeply concerned.”

But others, including Caitlin Talmadge, a nuclear policy expert at Georgetown University, see Putin’s recent effort to mobilize more troops as an indication that he is not yet ready to resort to nuclear assets in the war.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Talmadge said in a statement to The Hill. “Despite Putin’s nuclear rhetoric, this attempt to resuscitate his conventional forces through partial mobilization indicates that he is not eager to turn to nuclear weapons. He is trying to find more non-nuclear sports on the escalation ladder.”

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