'Russia is a powerful nuclear state’, Putin warns against interference

History has demonstrated that European wars involving a major global power can spiral out of control
Last Updated : 24 February 2022, 16:02 IST
Last Updated : 24 February 2022, 16:02 IST

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President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops into Ukraine but made clear his target goes beyond his neighbor to America’s “empire of lies,” and he threatened “consequences you have never faced in your history” for “anyone who tries to interfere with us.”

In a rambling speech early Thursday, full of festering historical grievances and accusations of a relentless Western plot against his country, Putin reminded the world that Russia “remains one of the most powerful nuclear states” with “a certain advantage in several cutting edge weapons.”

In effect, Putin’s speech, intended to justify the invasion, seemed to come close to threatening nuclear war.

In the context of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, Putin said, “there should be no doubt that any potential aggressor will face defeat and ominous consequences should it directly attack our country.”

President Joe Biden, who said Putin “had chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” has made clear that no US troops will be sent to Ukraine.

European allies have taken the same position. “We have made it clear that we don’t have any plans and intention of deploying NATO troops to Ukraine,” Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary-general, said Thursday.

Still, history has demonstrated that European wars involving a major global power can spiral out of control.

For Putin, the invasion of a country bigger than France with a population of 44 million represents a high-risk gamble, beyond any of his past military adventures. It is easy to begin wars, much harder to stop them. The West’s economic sanctions, already coming into force, will be severe, and long-term Ukrainian guerrilla resistance to any Russian presence appears certain.

Still, after his short war in Georgia in 2008, his annexation of Crimea in 2014, his orchestration in 2014 of the military conflict in eastern Ukraine that created two breakaway regions and his military intervention in Syria in 2015, Putin has clearly concluded that Russia’s readiness to use its armed forces to advance its strategic aims will go unanswered by the United States or its European allies.

“Russia wants insecurity in Europe because force is its trump card,” Michel Duclos, a former French ambassador. “They never wanted a new security order, whatever the European illusions. Putin decided some time ago that confrontation with the West was his best option.”

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Published 24 February 2022, 15:55 IST

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