Russias Vladimir Putin Warns Of Nuclear War If NATO Troops Are Sent To Ukraine

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New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned NATO nations on Thursday (February 29) that they could trigger a nuclear war if they deployed troops to Ukraine, saying that Russia needed to fortify its western military district in response to Finland and Sweden joining the Atlantic alliance. The United States and major European allies this week ruled out sending ground forces to Ukraine, following France’s suggestion of the option. Putin delivered the caution during his yearly speech to Russia’s lawmakers and other members of the country’s establishment. 

The war in Ukraine has caused the worst crisis in Moscow’s ties with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Putin has already warned of the perils of a direct clash between NATO and Russia, but his nuclear caution on Thursday was one of his most blunt. Speaking to lawmakers and other members of the country’s elite, Putin, 71, reiterated his claim that the West was intent on weakening Russia, and he implied that Western leaders did not grasp how risky their interference could be in what he portrayed as Russia’s own domestic affairs.

He preceded his nuclear caution with a specific reference to an idea, proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, of European NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine – a suggestion that was swiftly dismissed by the United States, Germany, Britain and others.

“(Western nations) must understand that we also have weapons that can strike targets on their territory. All this really risks a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the annihilation of civilisation. Don’t they comprehend that?!” said Putin.

Ahead of a March 15-17 presidential election when he is sure to be re-elected for another six-year term, he praised what he said was Russia’s greatly modernised nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world.

“Strategic nuclear forces are in a state of full readiness,” he said, noting that new-generation hypersonic nuclear weapons he first mentioned in 2018 had either been deployed or were at a stage where development and testing were being finished.

Visibly furious, Putin suggested Western politicians remember the fate of those like Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler and France’s Napoleon Bonaparte who had unsuccessfully invaded Russia in the past.

“But now the consequences will be far more dire,” said Putin. “They think it (war) is a cartoon,” he said, accusing Western politicians of forgetting what real war meant because they had not faced the same security challenges as Russians had in the last three decades.

Russian forces now had the upper hand on the battlefield in Ukraine and were advancing in several places, Putin said. Russia must also increase the troops it has deployed along its western borders with the European Union after Finland and Sweden decided to join the NATO military alliance, he added.

The veteran Kremlin leader rejected Western suggestions that Russian forces might go beyond Ukraine and attack European countries as “nonsense”. He also said Moscow would not repeat the mistake of the Soviet Union and allow the West to “drag” it into an arms race that would consume too much of its budget.

“Therefore, our task is to develop the defence-industrial complex in such a way as to enhance the scientific, technological and industrial potential of the country,” he said.

Putin said Moscow was open to discussions on nuclear strategic stability with the United States but implied that Washington had no genuine interest in such talks and was more focused on making false claims about Moscow’s alleged aims.

“Recently there have been more and more unfounded accusations against Russia, for example that we are allegedly going to deploy nuclear weapons in space. Such innuendo… is a ploy to draw us into negotiations on their terms, which are favourable only to the United States,” he said.

“…On the eve of the U.S. presidential election, they simply want to show their citizens and everyone else that they still rule the world.”

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