Russia is ready for nuclear war, Putin warns the West

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia was ready for nuclear war if it came to it, his latest warning to the West ahead of an election this week that will see him extend his rule.

“From a military-technical point of view, we are, of course, ready,” he said in an interview with Russian state television that was released early Wednesday, when asked if Russia was really ready for such a conflict.

Putin said that Russia boasts a “more modern” nuclear arsenal than anyone else and that the West is working on modernizing its own. But he said this doesn’t mean the world is heading for nuclear war, and suggested that President Joe Biden’s experience ensures that he understands the potential dangers of escalation.

His comments come just days ahead of the March 15-17 presidential election that will see him re-elected for the fifth time to begin another six-year term.

It’s the second occasion in less than two weeks in which Putin has used nuclear rhetoric, and his latest foray into America’s upcoming election.

During his annual state of the nation address last month, Putin warned Western countries that if they send their own troops into Ukraine, they risk a nuclear war. His comments came after French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that NATO allies could send troops to Ukraine in the future.

Putin said in the interview Wednesday that U.S. troops on the ground in either Russia or Ukraine would be seen as an intervention. But he said Biden is an old-school politician, and there are plenty of specialists in strategic deterrence in Washington to keep that from happening.

“So I don’t think that here everything is rushing so head-on” to a nuclear confrontation, he said, according to a transcript of the interview shared by the Kremlin. “But we are ready for this.”

In line with the country’s stated security doctrine, Moscow is ready to use nuclear weapons “if we are talking about the existence of the Russian state, about the threat to our sovereignty and independence,” Putin added.

He also said he never pondered deploying nuclear weapons in Ukraine, even when Kyiv reclaimed some of its land in successful counteroffensives in 2022. “There has never been such a need,” he said.

Putin has substantially ramped up his nuclear saber rattling since his invasion of Ukraine. Although Washington maintains that it does not see a change in Russia’s nuclear stance, Putin’s drastic rhetoric has raised fears about the risks of a clash between Russia and the West.

“Overall, the tone of the interview, not only the ‘nuclear’ part, was positive and reassuring — Russia was in a good position, the situation was stable, and there was no need to worry,” said Andrey Baklitskiy, a senior researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.

“The seemingly muted reaction to possibility of West sending troops to Ukraine would be interesting to follow,” he added.

The declaration of Russia’s readiness for a nuclear war came as Putin said that Russia was ready for peace talks in Ukraine based on “realities” on the ground, and not what he called “some wants after the use of psychotropic drugs.” This was an apparent reference to the Kremlin’s long-standing and baseless claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a drug user.

“For us to negotiate now just because they are running out of ammunition is somewhat ridiculous on our part,” Putin said, referring to severe ammunition shortages that Ukraine has experienced as new U.S. military aid remains stalled in Congress and Kyiv’s European counterparts have struggled to supply the ammunition that has been promised.

“We are, however, ready for a serious conversation,” he said, adding that Moscow would not just negotiate a pause in fighting that would allow Ukraine to re-arm, but one that would secure serious security guarantees for Russia.

The White House announced Tuesday that it would provide $300 million in additional weapons to Ukraine amid the congressional holdup.

Putin was also asked about his stated preference for the “more experienced” Biden rather than the Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump, to win this year’s U.S. election.

Putin said that Trump, who had often praised the Russian leader, reproached him during his final year in office for wanting Biden to win the 2020 election.

“He told me so in one of the conversations. Sorry, I’ll say it like he did, it’s just direct speech: ‘You want Sleepy Joe to win,’” Putin recalled, using a label Trump often uses for Biden.

“And then, to my surprise, they began to persecute him because we allegedly supported him as a candidate,” Putin said of Trump. “Well, it’s some kind of complete nonsense.”

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