Putin’s Spokesman Doesn’t Rule Out the Use of Nukes if Russia’s Existence Is at Risk

The press secretary of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Dmitry (“dig my porn-stache”) Peskov, appeared on the barely watched CNN show hosted by Christiane Amanpour. The main message Peskov tried to communicate to viewers on Amanpour's show is that Russia is completely ready to use nuclear weapons to gain its desired results.

According to CNN, Peskov refused to deny the possibility of his country using nuclear weapons.

“We have a concept of domestic security and, well, it's public, you can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” the Russian president’s press secretary said. “If it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used.”

According to a 2020 declaration on Russia's nuclear policy signed by Putin, the Russian government will utilize nuclear arms in one of two ways: either in reaction to nuclear weaponry or unconventional weapons against Moscow as well as its allies or as a reaction to “aggression” using conventional arms “when the very existence of the state is put under threat,” according to the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.”

CNN provided more details: Russian President Vladimir Putin's top spokesperson admitted that Russia has not yet achieved any of its military objectives in Ukraine and would not deny the possibility that Moscow might resort to nuclear weapons.

When speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, Dmitry Peskov repeatedly refused to deny the possibility that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons in response to what Moscow believed was an “existential threat.” When asked if there were any conditions under which Putin would make use of Russia's nuclear capabilities, Peskov replied, “If it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be.”

Putin has hinted previously at the use of nuclear weapons against any country that he considered to be an imminent threat to Russia. In February, the Russian president said in an untelecast statement: “No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

Then he said in a live conference, accompanied by Russian defense officials, “Officials in leading NATO countries have allowed themselves to make aggressive comments about our country, therefore I hereby order the Minister of Defense and the chief of the General Staff to place the Russian Army Deterrence Force on combat alert.”

What does this really mean?

Contrary to other countries, such as the United States that has an anti-nuclear policy prohibiting nuclear weapons being used against non-nuclear countries, Russia has no such policy. In fact, Russia has a strategic theory called “escalating to de-escalate.”

However, this does not suggest that Russia is not likely to use such weapons, although deterrence on the strategic level seems to be strong. On a tactical level, the situation is quite different. The “2018 US Nuclear Posture Review” ascribed to Russia the notion of “the threat of nuclear escalation or even first use of nuclear weapons would serve to de-escalate a conflict on terms favorable to Russia.” Russian militarists have seriously considered the notion of “escalating to de-escalate”; however, whether this element is ingrained in Russian doctrine is not agreed upon by those studying Russian strategy. “Escalating to de-escalate” in an armed conflict with NATO could pose the significant danger of escalation instead of de-escalation. If a local conflict is fought with an opponent that isn't nuclear, small-scale military deployment of nuclear weapons could be a tempting option, particularly if the war isn't running as planned. The urge to intensify when a leader feels he is in a tightly packed corner is likely to be powerful.

Also, if the conflict in Ukraine is a disaster, and it may safe to declare that it’s nearing that point, then  dropping an “unintentional” nuke in Ukraine and telling NATO, “Stop supplying Ukraine right now, or I'll do the same to you,” isn't out of Russia’s strategy. We could currently be in the middle of that strategy at the moment. Remember Putin's speech in which he announced the invasion of Ukraine.

In the case of the United States and its allies, the strategy of keeping Russia out has obvious geopolitical advantages. For the world, it's a matter of life or death, and a question of the future of the US as a nation. This isn't an exaggeration but reality. It's not just an extremely real threat to our security but to the entire existence of our country and its sovereignty. This is the red line. There have been crossings of red lines in the past, but not this one.

It is crucial for anyone who may be enticed by these events from the outside to understand the true situation, especially any persons who attempt to hinder US progress or threaten our country and citizens. They must be aware that although Russia may react to perceived threats, the consequences of resorting to the nuclear option will be more severe than it has experienced in all of history. However developments unfold, the U.S. is prepared. All the important decision-making in this area has been made. 

He ties NATO membership of countries that border Russia as an obstacle to Russia's goals and, consequently, to Russia's existence. But Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia along with Poland are already part of that group. He also describes interference in Russia's activities in Ukraine as a red flag that could trigger Russia to “respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

It’s not even clear what the phrase “the very existence of the state is put under threat” means. Does it refer to the prevention of the celebration of victory in Red Square? Is it a reference to Russia being hindered from its rightful spot on the map? Does it refer to the political, or perhaps even physical, existence of Vladimir Putin, who comes off as a “L'etat, c'est moi” type of person?

Russia is a nuclear power. Although the odds of nuclear weapons lasting 30 years of Russian-quality maintenance are slim, it is safe to assume that there are some that still function. This fact isn't likely to change. Although it is true that Russia has nuclear weapons and is increasingly reckless in its threats to use them, that’s not a reason to “wet one’s pants.” Western nations should not allow themselves to be coerced into submission simply because Putin is making public announcements about what he may do. If we take this route, we'll end up abstaining from all NATO states that share borders with Russia and many more. Once he realizes this is how to get his way, this scheming tactic will never slow down.

We do know that we do not have any reason to think that morality or the human rights situation will convince Putin not to drop an atomic bomb on Kiev or any other Ukrainian city. The only thing we can state is that in the event that Putin does deploy a nuclear weapon, we have the right to respond with a similar weapon targeting an identical target within Russia. And we will search to the end of the Earth for any person who had a part in its use, including Putin–all the way to the man or woman who replaced the tire that was flat on the vehicle used to transport the weapon–and we will take them down.

Putin’s nuclear-war threats look similar to Cleavon Little’s intimidations in Blazing Saddles. They will work only when we believe in the structure Putin is creating.

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