Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern that the threat of nuclear war is growing as his country continues its invasion of Ukraine – a conflict he said “could be a long process”.
Putin, who was asked by a Human Rights Council member to state unequivocally that Russia would not use a nuclear weapon except in retaliation, said such a promise could not be made, arguing that a promise of never using weapons first is a promise to simply never use them.
“The threat of nuclear war is growing, there is no need to hide this sin,” the Russian president said. “If Russia does not use nuclear weapons first under any circumstances, then it will not be the second to use them either.”
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Russian doctrine holds that the nation has the right to deploy nuclear weapons in retaliation for hostile forces that threaten its sovereignty.
The world leader has rejected allegations that he is becoming militarily reckless, insisting that Russia’s nuclear arsenal remains a purely defensive asset.
“We haven’t gone crazy, we realize what nuclear weapons are,” Putin said on Wednesday. “We have these means in a more advanced and modern form than any other nuclear country, that’s an obvious fact.”
He added, “But we’re not about to run around the world wielding this weapon like a razor.”
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“The question about nuclear weapons was almost certainly asked on this conference call,” Rebekah Koffler, a Russia expert and former DIA intelligence officer for Russian doctrine and strategy, told Fox News Digital.
He continued: “The goal was to give Putin the opportunity to threaten the West, using his trademark willful ambiguity. Putin’s MO is to keep US and Western politicians, analysts and media at all times issuing veiled threats that Russia might use nuclear weapons.”
Putin also commented during the meeting that the war in Ukraine “could be a long process” – one of the leader’s first explicit acknowledgments that Russia’s initial optimism for a quick victory has waned.
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The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in its 10th month. Ukraine has seen a roller coaster of victories and defeats as its relatively ragtag forces struggle to regain ground lost at the start of the invasion.
Putin called a meeting with his security council on Tuesday to discuss the country’s internal defenses after three airbases saw “explosions” this week.
The Kremlin did not release details of the meeting, but said Russian officials were seeking to bolster the nation’s “internal security”.
The encounter appears to have taken place hours after a third airbase was hit in the Russian city of Kursk north of the Ukrainian border and a day later explosions were reported at two separate airbases hundreds of miles inside Russian territory.
Caitlin McFall of Fox News contributed to this report.