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Russia’s Military Would Be ‘Annihilated’ if Putin Used Nuke in Ukraine

Cold War Nuclear Weapons Test. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

While Putin has not made any new nuclear weapons threats recently over Ukraine, NATO and western countries are clearly worried about what the Russian leader might do next. And that means they are making preparations and issues what could be considered their very own real threats: 

President Vladimir Putin’s army would be “annihilated” by a non-nuclear military response from the West if he were to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, a top EU figure predicted on Thursday.

Putin “can not afford bluffing” over nukes, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in remarks at the opening of a diplomatic academy in Brussels.

Putin and various Kremlin officials have alluded to Russia’s nuclear stockpile and threatened dire military consequences when warning the West to keep out of the invasion of Ukraine.

Those comments increased soon after Ukraine started its startlingly successful counter-offensive, which exposed major flaws in Putin’s conventional military operation.

On September 21, as he announced his mobilization of reservists to the battlefield, Putin alluded to his nuclear stockpile and said Russia would “use all the means at our disposal” if the country’s “territorial integrity” were threatened. “This is not a bluff,” he said.

Referring to this on Thursday, Borrell said: “Putin is saying that he’s not bluffing. Well, he can not afford bluffing.”

Ukraine’s supporters — NATO, the EU and the US — “are not bluffing either,” Borrell said.

“And any nuclear attack against Ukraine will create an answer. Not a nuclear answer, but such a powerful answer from the military side that the Russian army will be annihilated,” was his prediction.

As an EU figure, Borrell does not control any military force.

But in his role he represents member states including France, a nuclear power, and 21 of NATO’s 30 members, and has been involved in other aspects of the Western response to the invasion.

US officials have seen no signs that Russia is actively preparing to deploy nuclear weapons, as Insider’s John Haltiwanger and Charles R. Davis reported. Strategists have long warned that responding to nuclear attacks with more nukes could cause an escalating conflict with world-ending consequences.

Borrell said that the West needs to show “complete determination” in the face of Russia’s aggression. “This is a serious moment in the history, and we have to show our unity, and our strength and our determination. Complete determination,” he said.

He said that the West must not waver in its support for Ukraine and should “continue looking for diplomatic solutions when possible.”

Mia Jankowicz is a news reporter at Insider’s London office. She previously covered Brexit for The New European and has contributed stories to The Guardian, The New Statesman,, and, 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.

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Mia Jankowicz is a news reporter at Insider's London office.