It seems the more desperate Russia gets in its war in Ukraine, the more nuclear threats get thrown around. The only question we need to ask is whether Moscow would really launch any sort of nuclear attack, considering it could start World War III and likely mean the death of millions of people.
Russian state TV aired several threats by a lawmaker to make nuclear strikes on Britain and Germany, with the host suggesting Russia should have struck the Queen’s funeral.
Andrey Gurulyov, a member of the State Duma and a retired major-general, suggested the strikes on Sunday and Monday’s edition of pro-Kremlin talk show “60 Minutes,” according to clips translated by Russian Media Monitor.
“60 Minutes” is a vehicle for pro-Russian propaganda and frequently airs misleading and false information about the war in Ukraine.
Gurulyov, a pro-Russian President Vladimir Putin lawmaker, suggested on Monday hitting Germany’s Ramstein air base.
But he took particular issue with the UK, calling it “the root of evil” and a place Russia could turn into a “martian desert” with nukes.
Host Olga Skabeeva then quipped: “We should have done it today, all the best people are there for the funeral,” she said.
World heads of state — apart from a few pariah leaders like Putin — gathered in London’s Westminster Abbey on Monday for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, a few hours before the “60 Minutes” broadcast.
Whether Skabeeva was joking or not, Gurulyov used the same reasoning he used on Sunday: President Joe Biden would not retaliate to a nuclear strike on a NATO ally.
Gurulyov on Sunday said Germans should understand that “if there’s a strike against the decision-making centers, the main decision-making centre is Berlin.”
He said Russia should call Biden’s bluff, saying Biden would not follow NATO’s Article 5, which considers an attack on one member state to be an attack on all.
“If we turn the British Isles into a Martian desert in three minutes flat using tactical nuclear weapons, not strategic ones — they could use Article 5 but for whom? A nonexistent country turned into a martian desert? They won’t respond.”
It’s not the first time “60 Minutes” guests have advocated nuclear warfare, though it’s unclear if Russia would take such a step, and Gurulyov is unlikely to have the power to instigate it.
Russian talk of nuclear strikes has been dismissed by some experts as irresponsible “saber-rattling,” as Insider reported in March.
But Gurulyov’s comments come at a pivotal moment for Russian forces in Ukraine, which have been repulsed in the east and northeast after weeks of stalemate.
That prompted talk of the potential for a humiliated Russia to resort to a nuclear strike.
Retired US Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, who is a former defense attaché to Russia, said told Insider’s John Haltiwanger this month that recent losses may pressure Putin to consider doing “something dramatic — which causes me to think again about nuclear triggers.”
Other experts told Insider Putin would not risk nuclear retaliation.
Putin made a veiled threat to the west in his speech at the outbreak of war on February 24.
He warned of “consequences greater than any you have faced in history” if the West intervenes, adding a reference to Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to include around 2,000 tactical nukes.
Mia Jankowicz is a news reporter at Insider’s London office, where this first appeared. She previously covered Brexit for The New European and has contributed stories to The Guardian, The New Statesman, Politics.co.uk, and Mic.com, as well as several local newspapers. A longtime culture writer, she has published reviews, opinion, and features to a wide range of art publications, with a focus on art from both the UK and the Middle East. She won the Frieze Writers’ Prize in 2007.