In an interview recorded on Wednesday and released on Sunday, President Vladimir Putin portrayed the ongoing conflict with the West over the Ukraine war as a crucial battle for the survival of Russia and its people. He cited NATO’s nuclear capabilities as a factor that had to be taken into consideration.
Since ordering the invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Putin has increasingly presented the war as a pivotal moment in Russian history, warning that the future of Russia and its people is at stake. According to Putin, the West’s ultimate goal is to break up the former Soviet Union and control the Russian Federation, the fundamental part of it. NATO and the West deny such allegations, claiming they are only seeking to assist Ukraine in defending itself against an unprovoked attack.
Putin argued that the West aims to divide up Russia in order to dominate the world’s largest producer of raw materials, which could ultimately result in the destruction of many of the people of Russia, including the ethnic Russian majority.
According to Putin, he is unsure whether the Russian people as an ethnic group can continue to exist in their current form due to the West’s alleged plans, which he claimed had been put on paper, although he did not specify where.
The United States has denied any intention to dismantle Russia. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has cautioned that a potential conflict between Russia and NATO could trigger a third world war, but he has also expressed the view that Putin should not hold onto power.
Putin asserted that the U.S. and European military aid to Ukraine, which is valued in the tens of billions of dollars, indicates that Russia is now in direct opposition to NATO. This is a nightmare scenario that both Soviet and Western leaders feared during the Cold War.
Ukraine has vowed to continue its efforts until all Russian soldiers, including those in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, have been removed from Ukrainian territory.
By framing the war as an existential threat, Putin can prepare the Russian people for a deeper conflict and also expand his potential arsenal of weapons.
Russia’s official nuclear doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons in response to the use of weapons of mass destruction or when conventional weapons pose a threat to the survival of the state.
Putin has indicated that he is prepared to disregard nuclear arms control agreements, including the ban on nuclear testing, unless the West withdraws from Ukraine. On Tuesday, he suspended a landmark nuclear arms control treaty, announced new strategic systems on combat duty, and threatened to resume nuclear tests. Putin demanded that discussions on this matter include the nuclear weapons of France and Britain as well.
Russia currently possesses the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear warheads, more than the combined number of warheads held by the United States, France, and Britain, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
“Given that all the major NATO countries have stated that their main objective is to strategically defeat us, which they say will make our people suffer, how can we disregard their nuclear capabilities in such a situation?” Putin asked.
Putin claimed that the most significant result of the past year was the unity of the Russian people.
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