Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military command to put nuclear forces on a “special’ state of alert – the highest level of alert for Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces..
Speaking to top military officials, including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, he said Western nations had taken “unfriendly actions” towards Russia and imposed “illegitimate sanctions”.
Russia’s leader had already issued a coded warning that he was willing to use nuclear weapons as he began his invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, he warned that “whoever tries to hinder us” would see consequences “you have never seen in your history”.
These words were widely interpreted as signalling a threat to use nuclear weapons if the West stood in his way.
The very public shift to high alert status is a way for Moscow to send a warning. Moving to alert status is likely to make it easier to launch weapons more quickly. But it does not mean there is a current intent to use them.
Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world but also knows that Nato also has enough to destroy Russia if they were used.
But the aim is likely to try and deter Nato support for Ukraine by creating fears over how far he is willing to go and creating ambiguity over what kind of support for Ukraine he will consider to be too much. (BBC)