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“We can kill a lot of people”: What are the risks of a nuclear war after Putin's new threats

Faced with the Ukrainian turn in the war, with the retreat of Russian troops to the border, and the weakening of Vladimir Putin’s power inside and outside his own country, the Russian leader appealed to one of the few options left to him – and which, possibly, he intends to follow since the beginning of the conflict: the nuclear threat. “We will use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” Putin warned in an official announcement. “This is not a bluff,” he reinforced.

As the war in Ukraine was never, in fact, just a local conflict, but dates back to Cold War opposition to the West and serves as a belated response to the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, the nuclear threat is not only made against the Russian neighboring country. “We are not going to kill everyone, but we can kill a lot of people in many countries. We are ready to use nuclear weapons against Western countries, against the United Kingdom”, warned Sergei Markov, a former adviser to Vladimir Putin.

The country’s former president, Dmitri Medvedev, joins in the chorus. “Not only mobilization capabilities, but also all Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, can be used to protect Russia,” said the now vice president of the Russian Security Council, in his statement. channel on Telegram.

Medvedev also said that referendums planned by Russian and separatist authorities on large swaths of Ukrainian territory will take place and that “there is no turning back”. of NATO countries in general must understand that Russia has chosen its own path,” he said.

“You have to take this threat really seriously”

For Julien Théron, political scientist, professor and co-author of “Putin, the strategy of disorder” (free translation, no Portuguese version), published by Tallandrier in 2021, it is not surprising surprising that, with the weakening of the Russian president’s warlike and tsarist speech, the nuclear offensive See the way out.

“The strategic study shows that the use of nuclear weapons does not pose any practical, moral or strategic problem for Putin. On the contrary. This would cause colossal international disorder and this is precisely the strategy of the Kremlin, which is very comfortable with these situations”, said Théron, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro. “This threat really needs to be taken seriously,” he concluded.

In another special interview with the same newspaper, Lev Shlosberg, one of the last Putin opposition figures at large in Russia, believes that “ nothing else is impossible” in this war. According to him, the Russian president considers himself a “messiah” who wants to “redo the political map of the world to erase what he calls the historical injustice of the collapse of the USSR”. For this, according to Shlosberg, Putin is ready to “use all political, economic and military means”, without considering “the costs of these actions”.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of state broadcaster RT and one of the main faces of Putin’s war propaganda, said: “Judging by what is happening and what is about to happen, this week marks the threshold of our imminent victory or the threshold of a nuclear war. I can’t see any third option.”

First step of nuclear escalation: annexation of territories

Putin’s warning serves as an ultimatum for Ukraine and the West. Reacting to his military failures in eastern Ukraine and preparing for the counterattack, Vladimir Putin decided to organize annexation “referendums” in eastern Ukraine from 23 to 27 of September.

If four regions coveted by Moscow are part of the country, as the Kremlin did in March 2014 with Crimea, and Ukraine continues with soldiers in these areas, Russia may use bombs, with the pretext of defending Russian territory and following the country’s nuclear doctrine.

Former KGB Sergueï Jirnov recalls that part of the investments destined for Russian military modernization since 2010 was for the development of nuclear weapons. Publicly allocating 21 % of the total state budget — about US$ 60 billion (almost R$ 310 billion) — to the army, while countries like France invest between 2 and 3%, Russia already gave indications that it was preparing the ground for war. Today, real investments must be more than 30% of Russian coffers.

Radicalization

Part of the weapons that resulted from such an investment have already been used – without justification – in Chechnya and Syria, as tests for greater military planning that, possibly, had only the starting point in Ukraine. “I am convinced that they were attempts to test the air defenses of other countries and of NATO”, wrote Jirnov in the book “L’Engrenage” (“The Gear”, in free translation, without a Portuguese version), published by Albin Michel in July of this year.

Having met Putin personally, as well as KGB strategies, Jirnov already predicted, two months ago, that “the more setbacks the Tsar encounters in Ukraine, the more he will radicalize” .

The Russian president knows he would expose himself to an automatic and far-reaching Western response if he ventured down this dangerous nuclear path. Even partner China warned him of the high cost he would have to pay if he crossed the red line. This Wednesday (21), Wang Yi, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected.” ”.

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, addressed the United Nations General Assembly via video conference on Wednesday night (60 ) and advocated the installation of a war crimes tribunal to try Russia. “Ukraine wants peace. Europe wants peace. The world wants peace. And we have seen who is the only one who wants war,” he added.

It turns out that Putin does not fear the UN nor China. He also does not fear Western reprisal. On the contrary: he has been looking for her since long before he invaded Ukraine in February of this year.

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