On Friday, as Russian Federation tanks and troops poured across the border into eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin talked about his country’s most destructive weaponry. “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations,” he said. “This is a reality, not just words.” Russia, he told listeners, is “strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces.”
That same day, Putin used a term for eastern Ukraine meaning “New Russia.” So when he refers to repelling “any aggression against Russia” and speaks of “nuclear deterrence,” as he did on Friday, the Russian president is really warning us he will use nukes to protect his grab of Ukrainian territory.
For more than a generation, nuclear weapons were considered defensive only. In a few short sentences on Friday, however, Putin made these devices offensive in nature, just another tool to be employed by an aggressor. And to highlight his threat, on Aug. 14 at Yalta, the Crimean city he had seized this year, Putin mentioned “surprising the West with our new developments in offensive nuclear weapons about which we do not talk yet.”
Also in Yalta, where the Duma was meeting, the Russian leader spoke about renouncing the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The treaty outlaws ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles and is a foundation of the post-Cold War peace.
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