Russia’s Putin issues new nuclear warnings to West over Ukraine

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned the West about Ukraine by suspending a landmark nuclear arms control treaty, announcing that new strategic systems have been put into combat use and threatening to resume nuclear tests.

Almost a year after ordering an invasion that has sparked the biggest confrontation with the West in six decades, Putin said Russia will achieve its goals and accused the West of destroying it.

“The elites of the West do not hide their aim. But they must also recognize that defeating Russia on the battlefield is impossible,” he told his country’s political and military elite.

Claiming the United States is turning the war into a global conflict, Putin said Russia was suspending participation in the New START treaty, its last major arms control deal with Washington.

The treaty, signed in 2010 by then-US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads countries can deploy.

It expires in 2026 and allows each country to physically inspect each other’s nuclear arsenals, although tensions over Ukraine had already halted inspections.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s move “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it makes the world a more dangerous place and urged Putin to reconsider.

The Russian leader said, without citing evidence, that some in Washington are considering breaking a moratorium on nuclear tests.

“…if the United States conducts testing, then we will do it. Nobody should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed,” Putin said.

“A week ago, I signed a decree to deploy new ground-based strategic systems into combat.”

It wasn’t immediately clear which systems he meant.

Putin said Ukraine was trying to attack a facility deep in Russia where it keeps nuclear bombers, a reference to Engels Air Force Base.


Russia and the United States together possess 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads.

The new START treaty limited each side to 1,550 warheads on deployed rocket launchers and heavy bombers. Both sides reached the central borders by 2018.

Putin, who has repeatedly hinted over the past year that Russia could use a nuclear weapon if threatened, actually said he could dismantle the nuclear arms control architecture if the West doesn’t back down in Ukraine.

Putin said the conflict was imposed on Russia, particularly by NATO’s eastward expansion since the Cold War.

“The Ukrainian people have become hostage to the Kiev regime and its Western overlords, who have effectively occupied this country in political, military and economic terms,” ​​he said.

Kiev and Western leaders like US President Joe Biden, who visited the Ukrainian capital on Monday, dismiss this narrative as an unfounded pretext for a land grab and say Putin must be made to lose his gamble on the invasion.

Russian forces have suffered three major battlefield setbacks but still control about a fifth of Ukraine. Tens of thousands of men were killed on both sides.

Speaking for an hour and 45 minutes under a large double-headed Russian eagle crest and flanked by eight tricolor Russian flags, Putin vowed that Moscow will achieve its goals in Ukraine while thwarting the US-led NATO alliance.

“They intend to turn a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation,” he said. “That’s exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country.”

The United States has expressed concern that Beijing may consider supplying arms to Russia, a move that could turn the war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one hand and Ukraine and NATO on the other.

China, whose top diplomat Wang Yi visited Moscow on Tuesday, has dismissed those concerns and warned of a nuclear escalation while reaffirming a new, far-reaching alliance with Russia.

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Putin’s powerful Security Council, told Wang that China was the top priority for Russia’s foreign policy and that the two countries must stand together against the West, Russian state news agencies reported.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn, Nick Macfie and Kevin Liffey)


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