NATO’s three nuclear powers UK, France, and the US delivered a joint message to Putin, vowing to retaliate with conventional weapons if he delivered a tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine, Financial Times writes in a lengthy article, citing former US and Russian officials.
The message was delivered amid an escalation of Russian nuclear rhetoric last autumn, when Putin made veiled warnings to “use all means at Russia’s disposal” to defend occupied territory in Ukraine.
However, Putin has already ruled out using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine and concluded that even a limited strike would do nothing to benefit Russia, FT writes, citing two people close to the Kremlin. A tactical nuclear strike would irradiate territory that Russia claims is its own and make it uninhabitable, “so what was the point?”
Now, Putin did not threaten to use nuclear weapons, but instead suspended Russia’s participation in New Start, the last remaining arms treaty with the US governing the countries’ nuclear arsenals, a step that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said has dismantled the arms control architecture.
Western countries have been intentionally vague on what consequences a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine would entail. French President Emmanuel Macron came the closest to providing details, specifying that France will refrain from using nuclear weapons if Russia delivered a nuclear strike against Ukraine or in the region. Politicians and experts then criticized him for violating a principle of nuclear deterrence.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that a Russian nuclear strike would fundamentally “change nature of the conflict,” but did not specify how the bloc would respond.
Financial Times also writes that most of the Russian elite oppose war but tell Putin lies.
- Russia’s nuclear deal suspension ruins arms control architecture – Stoltenberg
- 89% of Ukrainians want to keep fighting even after Russian nuclear strike
- Putin won’t use nuclear weapons because he’s afraid to die – Zelenskyy
- What if Russia nukes Ukraine? Military strategist Lawrence Freedman explains
- “I don’t see Putin using nuclear weapons” – military strategist Lawrence Freedman