Russian President Vladimir Putin made a new veiled threat of nuclear war on Friday, saying the U.S. already set the precedent to employ such weapons.
In a speech on Friday, as he signed off on the annexation of four Ukrainian territories, Putin denounced U.S. and Western nations’ claims to support democracy and freedom and said these countries instead seek to intimidate the west of the world.
“People in Donetsk and Luhansk, in Kherson and Zaporizhia have spoken out in favor of restoring our historical unity,” Putin said, referring to the four Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.
“Western countries have been repeating for centuries that they bring freedom and democracy to other peoples,” Putin continued. “Everything is exactly the opposite: instead of democracy – suppression and exploitation; instead of freedom – enslavement and violence. The entire unipolar world order is inherently anti-democratic and not free, it is deceitful and hypocritical through and through.”
“The United States is the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons twice, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Putin continued. “By the way, they set a precedent.”
Though various nations have tested nuclear weapons, the U.S. is the only country to use such weapons against an adversary in wartime.
Beyond those two nuclear blasts, Putin also referred to extensive allied bombing campaigns during World War II.
“Let me also remind you that the United States, together with the British, turned Dresden, Hamburg, Cologne and many other German cities into ruins without any military necessity during World War II,” he said. “And this was done defiantly, without any, I repeat, military necessity. There was only one goal: just like in the case of the nuclear bombings in Japan, to intimidate both our country and the whole world.”
Putin’s suggestion that a precedent already exists to use nuclear weapons in war is just his latest indication that he may be comfortable with taking such action during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, Putin suggested he would use nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction “in the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people.”
With the annexation of the four Ukrainian territories, Putin now considers those areas to be a part of Russia.
“We will protect our land with all the forces and means at our disposal,” Putin said during his speech Friday. “And [Russia ] will do everything to ensure the safe life of our people. This is the great liberation mission of our people.”
Open source intelligence and aviation tracking groups have recently spotted U.S. surveillance aircraft closely monitoring the Russian Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad. Russian officials have previously threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in the region and the new U.S. surveillance flights may indicate a heightened state of alert over a potential nuclear conflict.