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Putin’s ally Medvedev warns NATO of nuclear war if Russia is defeated in Ukraine

  • Medvedev: Nuclear powers don’t lose major wars
  • Nuclear war is possible if a nuclear power loses, he says
  • Medvedev asks NATO to think about the risks
  • NATO and defense leaders to meet in Germany

MOSCOW, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, warned the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Thursday that Russia’s defeat in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Medvedev has repeatedly raised the threat of a nuclear apocalypse, but his admission now of the possibility of Russian defeat indicates Moscow’s level of concern about the increase in Western arms deliveries to Ukraine.

“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war can trigger a nuclear war,” Medvedev, deputy chairman of Putin’s powerful security council, said in a message on Telegram.

“The nuclear powers have never lost the major conflicts on which their fate depends,” said Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012.

Medvedev said NATO and other defense leaders, who were to meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to discuss strategy and support for the West’s bid to defeat Russia in Ukraine, should think about the risks of their policy.

Russia and the United States, by far the largest nuclear powers, hold about 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads. Putin is the ultimate decision maker on the use of nuclear weapons.

When asked if Medvedev’s remarks meant that Russia was escalating the crisis to a new level, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied: “No, it absolutely does not mean that.”

He said Medvedev’s remarks were fully in line with Russia’s position nuclear doctrinewhich authorizes a nuclear strike after “an aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened”.

While NATO has conventional military superiority over Russia, when it comes to nuclear weapons, Russia has nuclear superiority over the alliance in Europe.

Putin presents Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine as an existential battle against an aggressive and arrogant West, and said Russia would use all available means to protect itself and its people against any aggressor.

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Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine sparked one of Europe’s deadliest conflicts since World War II and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The United States and its allies have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an imperial land grab, while Ukraine has vowed to fight until the last Russian soldier is expelled from its territory .

Since a grim New Year’s message portraying the West as Russia’s real enemy in the war on Ukraine, Putin has sent several signals that Russia will not back down. He sent hypersonic missiles into the Atlantic and appointed his general-in-chief to lead the war.

Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s mighty military-industrial complex was ramping up production and was a key reason his country would prevail in Ukraine.

Washington has not publicly specified what it would do if Putin ordered what would be the first wartime use of nuclear weapons since the United States unleashed the first atomic bomb attacks on Japanese cities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency William Burns warned Putin’s spy chief Sergei Naryshkin in November of the consequences of any Russian use of nuclear weapons, officials said Americans at the time.

Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads while the United States has 5,428, China 350, France 290 and the United Kingdom 225, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Medvedev, 57, who once presented himself as a reformer willing to work with the United States to liberalize Russia, has redefined himself since the war as the most publicly hawkish member of Putin’s circle.

He said the nuclear risks of the Ukraine crisis should be obvious to any Western politician who “retained at least some trace of intelligence”.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow and Felix Light in Tbilisi; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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