Russia

Ukraine invasion: Would Putin press the nuclear button?

Written by Steve Rosenberg

Let me begin with an admission. So many times, I’ve thought: “Putin would never do this.” Then he goes and does it.

“He’d never annex Crimea, surely?” He did.

“He’d never start a war in the Donbas.” He did.

“He’d never launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.” He has.

I’ve concluded that the phrase “would never do” doesn’t apply to Vladimir Putin.

And that raises an uncomfortable question:

“He’d never press the nuclear button first. Would he?”

It’s not a theoretical question. Russia’s leader has just put his country’s nuclear forces on “special” alert, complaining of “aggressive statements” over Ukraine by Nato leaders.

Listen closely to what President Putin has been saying. Last Thursday when he announced on TV his “special military operation” (in reality, a full-scale invasion of Ukraine), he delivered a chilling warning:

“To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside – if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history.”

“Putin’s words sound like a direct threat of nuclear war,” believes Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, chief editor of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

“In that TV address, Putin wasn’t acting like the master of the Kremlin, but the master of the planet; in the same way the owner of a flash car shows off by twirling his keyring round his finger, Putin was twirling the nuclear button. He’s said many times: if there is no Russia, why do we need the planet? No one paid any attention. But this is a threat that if Russia isn’t treated as he wants, then everything will be destroyed.”

In a 2018 documentary, President Putin commented that “…if someone decides to annihilate Russia, we have the legal right to respond. Yes, it will be a catastrophe for humanity and for the world. But I’m a citizen of Russia and its head of state. Why do we need a world without Russia in it?”

Read more at BBC News

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Steve Rosenberg

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