Putin warns nuclear risk is rising, “but we are not mad”
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin gave his most detailed comments in many weeks on Wednesday over the war in Ukraine, and the potential for the use of nuclear weapons.
Speaking at Russia’s annual human rights council meeting, the BBC reported that Vladimir Putin said the threat of a nuclear war was rising, but insisted Russia had not “gone mad” and would not use its nuclear weapons first.
Some commentators have suggested that the Russian President is walking back some of his more bellicose comments made earlier in the months-long conflict.
Nevertheless, recent events have continued to raise nuclear tensions.
U.S. deploys new bombs and unveils new bombers
This month the United States will deploy upgraded nuclear weapons to NATO facilities in Europe. New B61-12 air dropped atomic bombs were not scheduled to be deployed until next year, but the Pentagon decided to speed up the deployment to December.
- Read also on PeaceQuest: “U.S. sending new nuclear weapons to NATO bases – what about Finland and Sweden?”
In addition to the new nuclear bombs, the United States also publicly announced the deployment of a new generation of stealth bombers capable of dropping them on Russia and any other country.
The B-21 Raider will replace the aging B-2 “flying wing” bombers and the older B-1 bombers.
U.S. Defense News described the unveiling like this:
“A pair of massive hangar doors slid open, where the B-21 sat under a massive cover and bathed in fog and blue light. The sheet dropped, revealing the bomber, and it was towed forward to the edge of the hangar as the crowd applauded.”
Russia claims it’s responding to U.S. strategies
In Wednesday’s speech, Putin rejected Western criticism that his previous nuclear weapons comments amounted to saber-rattling, claiming they were “not a factor provoking an escalation of conflicts, but a factor of deterrence.”
Putin defended his previous warning about Russia’s nuclear war-fighting potential as being no different than the U.S.’s strategy.
The Associated Press reported, “In comments that reflected soaring tensions between Russia and the West, President Vladimir Putin suggested Moscow might think about using what he described as the U.S. concept of a preemptive strike.
“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,” he said.
The B-21 Raider is a tool for the U.S. to rapidly attack a target anywhere in the world with conventional or nuclear weapons.
“The B-21′s range will allow the bomber to carry out missions without being based in theater, or requiring logistical support in a deployment,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the unveiling ceremony in California. Its stealth capabilities will mean “even the most sophisticated air defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky,” he added, according to Defense News.
Long before the Ukraine war, the Kremlin expressed concern about U.S. efforts to develop the so-called Prompt Global Strike capability that envisions hitting an adversary’s strategic targets with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within one hour.
Putin noted that such a strike could knock out command facilities.
“We are just thinking about it, they weren’t shy to openly talk about it during the past years,” he said, claiming that Moscow’s precision-guided cruise missiles outperform similar U.S. weapons and Russia has hypersonic weapons that the U.S. hasn’t deployed.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this week, “there is no doubt that a full-fledged war is a possibility,” adding that it was important to avoid a conflict “that involves more countries in Europe and becomes a full-fledged war in Europe.”
War possible by design or by accident
While both sides escalate nuclear tensions, there is also the risk of an accident.
The inadvertent missile strike on allied Poland by Ukraine last month could have been mistaken as a Russian attack on a NATO member. In fact, Ukraine President continued to insist as much after other states concluded the missile was not launched from Russia, but misfired from Ukraine.
Last week, an apparent Ukrainian drone strike on a Russian air base caused a fiery explosion and damaged Russian bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and potentially risked igniting nuclear weapons that Russia stores at the Engels-2 base.