Putin: Russian nuclear weapons a ‘factor of deterrence’ in Ukraine war
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his reminders about Russia’s supply of nuclear weapons are a “factor of deterrence” in the war with Ukraine, not one of escalation.
Putin told members of the Kremlin’s presidential human rights council that Russia would not be able to use nuclear weapons at all if it agreed to not use them first and then come under a nuclear attack.
“If it doesn’t use it first under any circumstances, it means that it won’t be the second to use it either, because the possibility of using it in case of a nuclear strike on our territory will be sharply limited,” he said.
He said Russian officials are “fully aware” of what nuclear weapons can do and haven’t “gone mad,” but added that the Kremlin’s weapons are “more advanced and state-of-the-art” than what any other nuclear power has.
Putin has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory since he launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. He said in October that Moscow does not plan to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, but President Biden questioned his sincerity, saying the Russian president’s frequent mentions of the nuclear weapons are “very dangerous.”
Putin has said that he considers four regions of Ukraine, which Russia illegally annexed through internationally condemned referendums in September, to be part of Russian territory. Russia has not been able to maintain control of the entirety of those regions since then, however, as a Ukrainian counteroffensive has allowed the country to retake thousands of square kilometers of the captured areas.
Western leaders have expressed concerns that Putin may be willing to use tactical nuclear weapons, designed to be used on battlefields and create less damage than regular nuclear weapons, in fighting Ukraine.
Putin denied considering another round of mobilization after ordering 300,000 reservists to be called up earlier this year in light of media reports that the Kremlin may do so. He said Russia will protect itself “using all means available.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.