Putin says Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons if…

Moscow is ready to use nuclear weapons if there is a threat to the existence of the Russian state but “there has never been such a need,” President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with state media published Wednesday.

The Russian leader made the comments, to Rossiya 1 and RIA Novosti ahead of presidential elections on March 15, in which he is widely expected to sail through to a fifth term in office, and as his full-scale war in Ukraine grinds into a third year.

Putin said that from a military and technical standpoint, Russia is ready for a nuclear war, though he didn’t say one was imminent.

He warned that if US troops were deployed to Ukraine, Russia would treat them as interventionists.

“Apart from (US President Joe) Biden, there are enough other experts in the sphere of Russian-American relations and strategic restraint. So I don’t think that everything is going to go head-on here, but we are ready for it,” Putin said.

Putin said the United States is also developing nuclear forces but that doesn’t mean they are ready to “launch a nuclear war tomorrow.”

“They are now setting tasks to increase this modernity, and innovation, they have a corresponding plan. We know about it too. They are developing all their components. So are we,” Putin said.

“Weapons exist in order to use them. We have our own principles.”

Russia sees its large and diverse nuclear weapons stockpile as an important tool for achieving its goals in a potential conflict with the United States or NATO, the US intelligence community believes, and its struggles on the battlefield in Ukraine have continued to raise the risk that he might use them.

“Russia’s inability to achieve quick and decisive battlefield wins, coupled with Ukrainian strikes within Russia, continues to drive concerns that Putin might use nuclear weapons,” the intelligence community wrote in its annual unclassified threat assessment, released on Monday.

In late 2022, the US began “preparing rigorously” for Russia potentially striking Ukraine with a tactical battlefield nuclear weapon, according to reporting in a new book by CNN’s Jim Sciutto, “The Return of Great Powers.”

Russia is also expanding and modernizing the systems it has for delivering nuclear weapons, the intelligence community report stated, “because Moscow believes such systems offer options to deter adversaries, control the escalation of potential hostilities, and counter US and Allied conventional forces.”

These include long-range nuclear-capable missiles and underwater delivery systems meant to penetrate or bypass US missile defences, according to the report.

Earlier this month, two senior US administration officials told CNN that in late 2022, the US began “preparing rigorously” for Russia potentially striking Ukraine with a nuclear weapon.

The Biden administration was specifically concerned Russia might use a tactical or battlefield nuclear weapon, the officials said.

Last year, Putin deployed tactical nuclear weapons to neighbouring ally Belarus, and former Russian President and deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said strategic nuclear weapons could be used to defend territories incorporated into Russia from Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian state media, Putin said Western countries thought they could “do away” with Russia at the start of the Ukraine invasion, but instead, he claimed Moscow’s financial and economic systems are stable, and the capabilities of its armed forces are only growing.

NATO intelligence estimates of Russian defence production suggest that Russia appears on track to produce nearly three times more artillery munitions than the US and Europe, a key advantage ahead of what is expected to be another Russian offensive in Ukraine later this year. It’s also running artillery factories “24/7” on rotating 12-hour shifts, a NATO official said.

However, Russia’s ramp-up is still not enough to meet its needs, US and Western officials say, and Western intelligence officials do not expect Russia to make major gains on the battlefield in the short term.

Credit CNN

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