Russia has long seemingly sought to display their alleged nuclear arsenal, and Vladimir Putin may himself have provided the pretext for a preemptive atomic strike this week.
As the Russian military’s failing war in Ukraine trudges forth into its second year, it has become clear that the Kremlin’s fighting force isn’t what it was once feared to be. Ukraine has noticed this too, and their army has pushed back the invading hordes to their own border on a few occasions.
But Mother Russia still has a trick up her sleeve: A military doctrine that allows for preemptive nuclear strikes should the sanctity of the homeland be threatened. This week, Putin himself seemed to make that argument.
Putin has framed Moscow’s year-long invasion as a defensive pushback against what he sees as a hostile West bent on expanding into territories historically ruled by Russia.
“So for us this is not a geopolitical task, but a task of the survival of Russian statehood, creating conditions for the future development of the country and our children,” he said during a visit to an aviation factory in Buryatia, some 4,400 km (2,750 miles) east of Moscow.
Putin accuses the West of using Ukraine as a tool to inflict “stragetic defeat” on Russia. Kyiv and its Western allies say Moscow is waging an unprovoked war of imperial conquest that has destroyed Ukrainian cities, killed thousands of people and forced millions more to flee their homes.
While it has long seemed unlikely that Russia would take the atomic route, (mostly for the fact that the world would be forced to react), this latest tirade from the Kremlin seems to put the possibility right back on the table.