Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says that Moscow “doesn’t threaten anyone” with its nuclear weapons and that an open confrontation with the US and NATO is not in Russia’s interest. The statement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin again threatened the West with nuclear weapons.
“We are not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons,” Ryabkov said during a conference, according to Interfax. “The criteria for their use are stated in the military doctrine of Russia”, added the Russian official, reports Agerpres.
The statement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin told the West on Wednesday that it was not a “bluff” when he said he would use nuclear weapons if Russia’s territorial integrity was threatened.
Four Ukrainian regions partially controlled by Russian troops (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia) are holding so-called referendums for their annexation to Russia from Friday to Tuesday. Russian officials, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, have declared that once these provinces are annexed to Russia, any Ukrainian attack on them will be considered an attack on Russian territory.
However, according to Russia’s nuclear doctrine, this would allow it to resort to atomic weapons if Moscow considers that it is facing an “existential threat”.
But Ryabkov insisted that Russia is not looking for an “open confrontation” with the US or NATO and does not want the situation to escalate further.
“We hope that the (US President Joe) Biden administration is also aware of the danger of an uncontrolled escalation of the conflict in Ukraine,” added the Russian diplomat.
Also on Friday, the Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoli Antonov, said that he wants to believe that “despite all the difficulties, Moscow and Washington are not on the verge of falling into the abyss of a nuclear conflict.”
Announcing the mobilization of 300,000 reservists on Wednesday, Putin accused the West that, after forcing Kiev to stop negotiating with Moscow and supplying Ukrainian troops with weapons, it is now trying to encourage Ukraine to carry out military operations including on Russian territory, as “the purpose of the West is to weaken, divide and destroy Russia”.
In the US, representatives of the CIA stated that so far no indications have been observed that Russia would prepare for the use of nuclear weapons, reports CNN. But some military analysts warn that Russia could resort to using tactical nuclear weapons on the Ukrainian front in response to its military failures there, a military tactic sometimes referred to as “escalation for de-escalation.”