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Rare: Putin opens up on how he’d use his nuclear weapons, or wouldn’t

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Released)
December 07, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the threat of nuclear war is growing but said Russia hasn’t “gone mad” with the risks of a nuclear conflict. Putin has repeatedly raised the possibility that Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine could expand into a broader and possibly nuclear conflict with the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance.

Speaking through video link to Russia’s Human Rights Council on Wednesday, Putin discussed the state of the ongoing war in Ukraine and said the threat of a nuclear war is growing. Putin said Russia holds the advantage with the most advanced nuclear weapons but only seeks deterrence.

“Russia considers nuclear weapons a response to an attack,” Putin said, according to a translation by Sky News.

Putin then said Russia “does not have tactical nuclear weapons in other countries unlike the United States.” He later added, “We have the most advanced weapons, but we do not want to wave it around.”

“We haven’t gone mad, we realize what nuclear weapons are,” Putin added in comments translated by Reuters. “We have these means in more advanced and modern form than any other nuclear country, that’s an obvious fact. But we aren’t about to run around the world brandishing this weapon like a razor.”

Putin has made repeated comments about nuclear weapons in recent months

In September, Putin said western nations “have even resorted to the nuclear blackmail.”

“I would like to remind those who make such statements regarding Russia that our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have.” Putin added in September. “In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”

In October, Putin’s Security Council Deputy Secretary Alexander Venediktov warned that a nuclear World War III “will be catastrophic for all mankind.”

At a fundraising event in October, U.S. President Joe Biden said his administration is “trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp” to avoid a nuclear war.

“He is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological and chemical weapons, because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming,” Biden said. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily use tactical nuclear weapons and not end up with Armageddon.”