Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday appeared to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. In yet another U-turn over the Kremlin’s willingness to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Putin claimed that there would be no need for Russia to deploy weapons of mass destruction.
“We see no need for that,” Putin told a conference of foreign policy experts. “There is no point in that, neither political, nor military.”
The Russian president also attempted to backtrack on his previous comments about the use of nuclear weapons – including his allusion to deploying nuclear missiles during his address to the nation on September 21 in which he famously promised Western leaders he was not “bluffing.”
Putin claimed on Thursday that his previous warning that he would use “all means available” to protect Russia wasn’t a threat to use nuclear weapons, but a response to Western leaders talking about the possibility of using nuclear weapons. Specifically, the Russian president referenced former British foreign secretary and prime minister Liz Truss, who once said that the United Kingdom would be ready to use nuclear weapons.
“What were we supposed to think?” the Russian president said. “We saw that as a coordinated position, an attempt to blackmail us.”
Is It A Ploy?
The Kremlin’s position on the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine has continuously shifted since its invasion of Ukraine in February. Putin’s latest comments, therefore, may not necessarily mean that the Kremlin has ruled out the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Instead, Putin’s comments could be part of an effort by the Kremlin to spread disinformation and to set the stage for a Russian deployment of a dirty bomb that may later be blamed on Ukraine. It follows a coordinated effort by the Russian government to convince Western leaders that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb as part of a false flag attack. Moscow provided no evidence that Kyiv is making any such plans during phone calls with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other defense ministers in Europe.
Putin’s latest suggestion that he won’t use nuclear weapons may not just be designed to confuse Western leaders, however – it could be part of an effort to convince the Russian people that the Russian military is not struggling in Ukraine. By suggesting that there is “no need” to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Putin is suggesting that his military is capable of achieving its goals in Ukraine.
It may be no coincidence that Putin made the comments as reports revealed that the Russian military in Ukraine could soon benefit from the experience of tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers trained by the U.S. military. A report by Foreign Policy this week revealed that Russian private military contractor the Wagner Group is recruiting thousands of Afghan soldiers desperate to leave following the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.