Of Vladimir Putin’s Nuclear Rhetoric

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech as he visits the National Space Centre construction site in Moscow on February 27, 2022. (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Since Feb. 27, 2022, the Russian nuclear forces are on standby. After giving his troops the order to invade Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to add to the war rhetoric in the worst possible way.

It’s a matter of rhetoric since, according to the nuclear rhetoric he himself introduced in 2020, the use of nuclear weapons would only be justified in four specific cases: the use of nuclear weapons by an opponent, an aggression putting the “very existence of the State” in jeopardy, ballistic missiles fired toward Russia or an ally, or an attack on a Russian nuclear weapon site.   

At the present time, none of this has been done by NATO and countries opposed to the invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin therefore only speaks of nuclear weapons to provoke fear. According to experts, Russia is the first nuclear power in the world. Like the other nuclear powers, Russia has developed a huge arsenal of these devastating weapons as part of a dissuasion strategy, precisely to prevent the outbreak of a nuclear conflict.  

Until now, no country opposed to the invasion of Ukraine has talked of sending troops in the field to combat Russian forces. Everyone wants negotiations to start as soon as possible to bring peace to Ukraine. They are asking for what any nation committed to upholding international law and the national sovereignty of independent states should do: to find at any cost a peaceful resolution of the conflict. But Vladimir Putin is obviously not looking for this and he does not honor who he is by wielding a nuclear threat in circumstances that in no way justify such response.   

You may say these are just words. However, from the leader of a major nation and a member of the United Nations Security Council, one expects to hear him speak with restraint of a threat truly terrible for the whole planet and not, in any case, in the context of this conflict.

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