Russia explains why it won’t use nukes in Ukraine

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Moscow says its nuclear doctrine is very clear and the current conflict in Ukraine does not meet any of its criteria

The allegations about Russia threatening to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine are “untenable and baseless,” the head of Moscow’s delegation to the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, Andrey Belousov, said on Friday in New York. 

“This is impossible since Russian doctrinal guidelines strictly limit emergency situations in which the use of nuclear weapons is hypothetically possible, namely in response to aggression involving weapons of mass destruction, or in response to aggression involving conventional weapons, where the very existence of the state is threatened,” Belousov explained.

“None of these hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” he stated.

The Russian diplomat also rejected insinuations about Moscow placing its nuclear deterrent on “high alert,” explaining that the current state of “increased vigilance,” with extra personnel on duty at strategic command posts, was “completely different” from the actual “state of high alert of strategic nuclear forces.”

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Putin talks about nuclear war

On Monday, in a letter to participants of the NPT conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that there would be no winners in a nuclear war, and it must never be allowed to happen. Belousov further explained that Moscow’s previous warnings about a “serious risk of nuclear war” were directed at NATO, as a way to deter Western countries from direct aggression against Russia in the context of the Ukrainian crisis, as they “dangerously balance on the edge of a direct armed confrontation with Russia.”

US President Joe Biden declared this week that Washington is ready to expeditiously negotiate “a new arms control framework” with Moscow, but according to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the US has yet to come up with any proposals regarding an agreement that could potentially replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. 

The landmark New START remains the only major arms control agreement between Moscow and Washington still in force. In early 2021, the deal was on the brink of expiration, but it was ultimately salvaged shortly after Biden’s inauguration, when Washington finally agreed to Moscow’s calls to prolong the deal without any preconditions. It is currently set to expire in 2026.

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