In a dramatic escalation of East-West tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the activation of Russian nuclear capabilities on Sunday in reaction to what he called “aggressive declarations” by senior NATO states.
The directive indicates that Putin wants Russia’s nuclear weapons to be ready to launch at any time, raising the possibility that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s response to it may devolve into nuclear conflict.
In the midst of the unsettling developments, Ukraine’s presidential administration announced that a team will meet with Russian officials as Moscow’s soldiers approached Kyiv.
In issuing the nuclear alert, Putin highlighted not only the purported words by NATO members, but also the harsh financial restrictions imposed by the West on Russia, including the Russian leader himself.
Putin instructed his defense minister and the commander of the military’s General Staff to place nuclear deterrent forces on a “special regime of combat duty” at a meeting with his senior officials.
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“Western nations are not only conducting unfriendly economic activities against our country, but key officials from prominent NATO members have made harsh statements against our country,” Putin stated in televised remarks.
According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Putin is repeating a pattern he adopted in the weeks leading up to the invasion of Ukraine, “which is to fabricate threats that don’t exist in order to justify greater action.”
The international world and the American people should view it through that lens. This is something we’ve seen him do several times.” She told ABC’s “This Week” that neither NATO nor Ukraine pose a danger to Russia.
“This is all part of President Putin’s pattern, and we’re going to stand up…, we have the power to protect ourselves, but we also have to call out what we’re witnessing here,” Psaki added.
In the days leading up to Russia’s invasion, Putin warned to strike violently against any states that interfered directly in Ukraine’s crisis, notably raising the specter of his country’s nuclear position.