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Putin says 'no need' to use nuclear weapons for victory in Ukraine as US ramps up aid

While Putin has ruled out the use of nuclear weapons as of now, he refused changes to the Kremlin's nuclear doctrine, which allows the use of such weapons under certain conditions. Notably, Putin's sharp comments had raised the risk of nuclear war in Europe's deadliest conflict since World War II.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee St Petersburg Published on: June 08, 2024 10:03 IST
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a plenary
Image Source : REUTERS Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

St Petersburg: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday asserted that Russia has no need to use nuclear weapons for a military victory in Ukraine, the strongest signal by the Kremlin that the ongoing conflict might not escalate into a nuclear war. Western countries were concerned after Putin repeatedly said that Russia would use nuclear weapons if necessary to defend itself, raising the threat of a nuclear conflict in the deadliest war in Europe since World War II.

Asked at the plenary session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum by moderator Sergei Karaganov, an influential Russian analyst, if Russia should hold a "nuclear pistol to the temple" of the West over Ukraine, Putin said he did not see the conditions for using such weapons. "The use is possible in an exceptional case - in the event of a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. I don't think that such a case has come. There is no such need," Putin said.

Russia considers Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, and four other Ukrainian regions now as integral parts of its own territory, raising the possibility of a nuclear strike if Kyiv appeared poised to retake them. This comes as Ukraine has stepped up drone and missile attacks on Russian targets, including in Crimea, and has vowed to drive all Russian forces from its territory.

Putin's stance on nuclear doctrine

However, Putin's recent remarks may not come as a relief to parties seeking to avert a nuclear standoff. The 71-year-old Russian President said he did not rule out changes to Russia's nuclear doctrine, which sets out the conditions under which such weapons could be used. He also said that if necessary Russia could test a nuclear weapon, though he saw no need to do so at the present time.

Russia and the United States hold nearly 90 per cent of the world's nuclear weapons. Last year, Karaganov proposed a limited nuclear strike on a NATO member in Europe to force the West to back off in the conflict over Ukraine and thus avert World War III. However, Putin said he prayed that the world would never witness a nuclear confrontation, adding that the armed forces are gaining experience as well as increasing their effectiveness.

Russian troops are advancing along the front line in Ukraine, Putin said, adding they had taken 880 square km of territory since the start of the year, including 47 villages and towns. Russia had increased ammunition production by more than 20 times and was outproducing Ukraine and the West on a whole series of measures, he added.

Russia's published 2020 nuclear doctrine sets out the conditions under which a Russian president would consider using a nuclear weapon: broadly as a response to an attack using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, or to the use of conventional weapons against Russia "when the very existence of the state is put under threat".

Putin's missile deployment after Western aid to Kyiv

Earlier this week, Putin said he could deploy conventional missiles within striking distance of the United States and its European allies if they allowed Ukraine to strike deeper into Russia with long-range Western weapons. This came after NATO allowed Ukraine to use Western weapons to strike Russian territory. Russia's response would be to shoot down the Western missiles, and specifically mentioned US ATACMS, and British and French missile systems.

"If we see that these countries are being drawn into a war against the Russian Federation, then we reserve the right to act in the same way. In general, this is a path to very serious problems," Putin said. US President Joe Biden also authorised Kyiv to launch some US-supplied weapons at military targets inside Russia.

Biden, speaking in France on Friday where he has been attending celebrations of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, reaffirmed the United States' commitment to support Ukraine and again drew a comparison between the fight against Nazi Germany and the threats posed by dictators today. He also apologised to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and announced a new $255 million military package for Kyiv.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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