Russian leader Vladimir Putin fired off a barrage of tension-raising remarks about nuclear weapons on Friday, hinting that Russia is flirting with the notion of adopting the policy of making preemptive military strikes.
“We are just thinking about it. They weren’t shy to openly talk about it during the past years,” Putin said in reference to the United States, according to the Associated Press. Putin spoke in Kyrgyzstan at a summit of former Soviet bloc nations aligned with Russia.
As explained by AP, the United States has been building toward what it calls Conventional Prompt Global Strike capability. The concept is that within one hour, conventional weapons hit an enemy’s critical targets anywhere in the world.
“Speaking about a disarming strike, maybe it’s worth thinking about adopting the ideas developed by our U.S. counterparts, their ideas of ensuring their security,” Putin said, with AP, noting the words were delivered “with a thin smile.”
Putin and other Russian officials have talked up the possibility of nuclear war ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began to go awry.
“He doesn’t quite say we’re going to launch nuclear weapons, but he wants the dialogue in the U.S. and Europe to be, ’The longer this war goes on, the greater the threat of nuclear weapons might be used,’” John Erath, senior policy director for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said.
On Wednesday, Putin had framed himself as a model of restraint when it comes to nukes.
“We haven’t gone mad. We are fully aware of what nuclear weapons are,” Putin said Wednesday, according to AP.
“We aren’t about to run around the world brandishing this weapon like a razor,” he said, according to the BBC.
But according to AP, a veiled threat later emerged when Putin said, “We have them, and they are more advanced and state-of-the-art than what any other nuclear power has.”
On Friday, he noted that the United States has never said it would rule out a first strike with nuclear weapons.
“If the potential adversary believes that it can use the theory of a preemptive strike and we don’t, it makes us think about the threats posed by such ideas in other countries’ defensive posture,” he said.
Putin said Russia currently would launch nuclear weapons if it believed a nuclear attack against it is imminent.
“When the early warning system receives a signal about a missile attack, we launch hundreds of missiles that are impossible to stop. Enemy missile warheads would inevitably reach the territory of the Russian Federation. But nothing would be left of the enemy too, because it’s impossible to intercept hundreds of missiles. And this, of course, is a factor of deterrence,” he said.
Rebekah Koffler, a former Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence officer for Russian Doctrine & Strategy, said Putin is sending a warning about efforts to support Ukraine, according to Fox News.
She said Putin’s real message was: “Russia may use nuclear weapons in Ukraine if the US/NATO continue to provide weapons to Ukraine — especially those that Ukraine can use to strike deep into Russia proper.”
She said the recent attack on Russian bases, including one named for Communist philosopher, Friedrich Engels, could fit within the prevailing reasons for Russia to use its nukes.
“Based on the existing Russian doctrine, Russia can respond with nuclear strikes, because Engels airbase is the home to nuclear-capable bombers that are considered strategic assets, worthy of defending with nukes,” Koffler said.
Koffler said escalation is taking place as the war drags on.
“Neither side wants to end up in a direct conflict, but they are climbing this ladder unintentionally due to the misunderstanding of each other’s posture Both sides are betting that the other one will blink first,” she said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.