Putin has right to start nuclear war if provoked by NATO, top Russian diplomat warns
Kate Buck – March 24, 2022
Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if it is threatened by Nato, a senior diplomat has claimed.
Vladimir Putin has been locked in a war with Ukraine for a month, but has been hit with strict sanctions from the West in response to his aggression.
Fears of nuclear war have been exacerbated during the conflict. Shortly after the outbreak of war in February, Putin placed Moscow’s nuclear forces on “high alert” and began drills of its nuclear submarine fleet.
And today, Russia upped the rhetoric again, with Dmitry Polyanskiy, the Russian deputy ambassador to the UN, warning Moscow reserved the right to deploy nuclear weapons if “provoked”.
Asked if Putin was right to hold the prospect of nuclear war over the rest of the world, Polyanskiy told Sky News: “If Russia is provoked by Nato, if Russia is attacked by Nato, why not, we are a nuclear power.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to be saying. But it’s not the right thing to threaten Russia, and to try to interfere.
“So when you’re dealing with a nuclear power, of course, you have to calculate all the possible outcomes of your behaviour.”
Polyanskiy did not detail what provocation from other countries would look like.
Of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons, Russia is believed to have the most.
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which compiles the list of the world’s nuclear weapons, says Russia has a total inventory of 5,977 nuclear warheads. This includes stockpiled and retired warheads.
Of that figure, 1,588 are deployed strategic warheads on ballistic missiles and at bomber bases.
Another 2,889 of Russia’s warheads are non-deployed or reserve weapons. Added together, this gives a military stockpile total of 4,477 nuclear warheads.
Russia has conducted more than 25 test launches of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which can be loaded with nuclear warheads, in the past five years. It plans a further 10 test launches this year, a “significant increase in test frequency”, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reports.
Polyanskiy’s warning comes as the leaders of Nato member countries gathered in Brussels for an emergency summit to discuss the latest situation a month on from the start of the Russian invasion.
The Nato meeting, which was addressed remotely by Mr Zelenskyy, signed off on the formation of four new battlegroups in eastern Europe.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the battlegroups – each numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 troops – would be deployed in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The alliance already has 40,000 troops in Europe under its direct command, nearly 10 times the number it had a few months ago.
Nato has so far refused to get directly involved in military engagement with Russia, denying Ukraine’s request to enforce a no-fly zone above its airspace.
Russia began its invasion of Ukraine a month ago, and despite Western intelligence claiming Putin had expected to take over in a matter of days, they have yet to take over key cities.
On Tuesday Putin’s spokesman denied the Kremlin ever thought it would need “a couple of days” to take Ukraine and insisted the Russian offensive is going to plan.
Dmitry Peskov also denied claims Putin was “angry” at Ukrainians, saying that sentiment only applied to Ukrainians who wished to join Nato – believed to account for 80% of the country.
Speaking to CNN, Peskov admitted the invasion of Ukraine had “not achieved” anything yet.
Peskov said: “Of course, no one would think from the very beginning about a couple of days. It’s a serious operation with serious purposes.”
He added that the “special military operation” was “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand”