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Putin ally warns of nuclear threat, Markey pushes back

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey speaks with the Kennedy SchoolÕs Prof. Matthew Bunn on PutinÕs War in Ukraine and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation act at the Kennedy School on January 19, 2023 in, Cambridge, MA. (Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald/TNS)

Russian hardliner Dmitry Medvedev is warning the world that nuclear weapons are not off the table.

The former Russian President and current deputy chairman of the Russian security council said in a social media post Thursday that Russia’s defeat in the war with Ukraine could trigger a nuclear conflict.

“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” Medvedev said. “Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends.”

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School, said diplomacy must be “front and center” when it comes to negotiating around nuclear arms with Russia and other burgeoning nuclear powers.

“The greatest risk, that because of the lack of communications, is in the fog of war, we see an unnecessary escalation in the use of nuclear weapons,” Markey said. “We have to put more attention on this issue.”

Climate change was also on the table where Markey said both that and nuclear arms are “existential” issues of our time.

Markey met Thursday at the Kennedy School with Professor Matthew Bunn, the James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy, when the 76-year-old statesman and the professor shared their concerns over the ongoing war in Ukraine and the state of nuclear proliferation.

After 40 years of attempting to fight the spread of nuclear arms through an era of heightened tensions with the Soviet Union — Markey published a book on the subject in 1982 — the senator seems less than convinced the situation has been much improved.

“So here we are now in 2023 and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has been threatening the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Nuclear power plants have been used as part of tactical maneuvering by the Russians in that country,” he said. “We see a rise in the attention being paid and the desire for nuclear weapons obviously in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, in North Korea. China says that it’s going into full-bore nuclear weapons production.”

Markey’s talk comes almost a year into Russia’s invasion of their Democratic neighbor Ukraine, making even talking about reducing proliferation hard, according to Bunn.

“The nuclear dangers are higher than they’ve been in a long time with the war in Ukraine,” he said. “And yet, the conversation that you need to do anything about the nuclear dangers is more difficult because of the war in Ukraine. Almost all U.S.–Russian communications are cut off at this point, including arms control talks.”

Russia has been attacking its fellow former Soviet state since 2014, when Putin illegally annexed Crimea. The conflict, which continued in a pair of separatist regions during the following eight years, exploded into full-scale war in February of 2022, when the Russian military further invaded the country on three fronts.

Moscow apparently had planned for just days of military actions, but Russian forces have since been stalled in their advances by Ukrainian troops and civilian volunteers armed and trained by a global coalition of nations. According to the U.N., the war has displaced almost 8 million Ukrainian civilians.

The United States is the only country that has ever used a nuclear weapon in an armed conflict, which it did twice in August of 1945, at the end of WWII, when it bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


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