Analysis & Opinions

Keeping Putin From Going Nuclear: Can Xi and Modi Help?

| Sep. 29, 2022

It might be difficult to fathom, but there was a time when Vladimir Putin supported the elimination of nuclear weapons, at least in public. Asked in 2009 about Japan’s efforts to have the world “completely give up nuclear arms,” Putin said: “I approve of them. I think we should work toward universal and total nuclear disarmament.” Fast-forward to 2022, however, and not a fortnight goes by, it seems, without Putin or his key aides rattling Russia’s several thousand nuclear sabers. Russia’s autocratic ruler is trying to intimidate Kyiv and its Western allies into accepting his terms for ending the war he’s launched, which include annexing parts of Ukraine and subjugating the rest of the country to Moscow’s diktat. The collective West is right to take these threats seriously, but its efforts to dissuade Putin from exercising the nuclear option lack a critical component—pro-active involvement by the leaders of “the Rest.”

The Kremlin’s latest round of nuclear saber-rattling began Sept. 21 when Putin warned that, should NATO countries use weapons of mass destruction against Russia, “we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us.” “This is not a bluff,” he added in an address meant to announce his decision of “a partial mobilization” and to endorse sham referenda in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine. It follows from Putin’s statement that Russia’s nuclear umbrella will be extended to cover the occupied territories, which could be annexed by Moscow as soon as Sept. 30. And if Putin’s warning was not explicit enough, his increasingly hawkish lieutenant at Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, stressed the next day that Russia could use its strategic nuclear forces to defend the newly annexed lands.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Saradzhyan, Simon.“Keeping Putin From Going Nuclear: Can Xi and Modi Help?.” Russia Matters, September 29, 2022.

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