Putin has three goals in playing nuclear card against West now, Kirillova says

In his annual address to Russia's parliament on March 1, 2018, Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia developed a cruise missile with a nuclear-powered propulsion engine with an unlimited range. (Image: video capture)

In his annual address to Russia's parliament on March 1, 2018, Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia developed a cruise missile with a nuclear-powered propulsion engine with an unlimited range. (Image: video capture) 

International, Op-ed

Vladimir Putin’s new round of sabre rattling against the United States is not simply an extension of what he and his propagandists have been doing from the times of the 2016 US elections when Moscow outlets repeatedly warned that the election of Hillary Clinton would lead to war, Kseniya Kirillova says.

Kseniya Kirillova

Kseniya Kirillova

Instead, according to the US-based Russian journalist, the new wave of such comments reflects three specific Kremlin goals as tailored to the current situation:

  • The first of these involves the Kremlin’s domestic audience. Putin wants to show himself only as the defender of the Russian people and to ensure that Russians continue to view the US and not him as the source of threats.
  • Second, Putin wants to create “the illusion of confrontation between Russia and the US.” that is useful to both him and to Trump. For Putin, “it becomes the ideal justification for a renewal of an arms race and the placement of rockets targeted on Europe. For Trump, it undermines the position of those who talk about his collusion with Moscow.
  • And third, it is likely that Moscow’s messages in this regard “are addressed not so much to Donald Trump as to his opponents” in the US. Relatively few people in the US and even in the Trump Administration support the White House leader’s decision to pull out of the intermediate range missile accord. Putin is sending a message by his sabre rattling that such opponents are right and that Moscow would welcome a new treaty on this subject.

Given that “in the American establishment, there is a large group of people who are prepared to forgive Moscow any actions as long as cooperation in the nuclear sphere continues,” that is a powerful argument.

Trump and Putin after their two-hour one-on-one (with translators only) meeting in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018 (Image: social media)

Trump and Putin after their two-hour one-on-one (with translators only) meeting in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018 (Image: social media)

The Kremlin leader clearly calculates that if Trump is impeached or otherwise weakened or if he is defeated in 2020, his opponents will want to stress how different they are than he as far as relations with Russia are concerned and will rush to offer a new intermediate arms control package, one that will be far more favorable to Putin and Russia than the current one.

Because of that possibility or even likelihood, Kirillova says, Putin’s words about the use of nuclear weapons are even more dangerous, not because they necessarily point to war but rather because they open the way for Russia in that not distant future to escape from its current isolation and project even more power in Europe and the West.

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Edited by: A. N.

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