Putin’s Nuclear Alert Part of Russia’s ‘Battle of Rhetoric’: UK Defence Chief

Russian President Vladimir Putin putting his nuclear forces on high alert is just a part of the Kremlin’s “battle of rhetoric” rather than a real threat, Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Putin increased the readiness of Russia’s nuclear weapons on Feb. 27, citing “aggressive statements” from NATO and the financial sanctions imposed in response to his invasion of Ukraine.

Talking to “BBC Breakfast” on Feb. 28, Wallace said that he understands the concerns about the warning, and revealed his own 12-year-old son was worried about the step.

But he said: “We don’t see or recognise in the sort of phrase or the status he described as anything that is a change to what they have currently as their nuclear posture.

“This is predominantly about Putin putting it on the table just to remind people, remind the world, that he has a deterrent.”

He added: “We will not do anything to escalate in that area, we will not do anything to feed any miscalculation, we take it very, very seriously.

“But at the moment this is a battle of rhetoric that President Putin is deploying, and we just have to make sure we manage it properly.”

Wallace warned that the Russian offensive in Ukraine is likely to become “more violent.”

Although the Ukrainians were putting up “a very strong fight,” the reality was they were going up against “the overwhelming scale of the Russian Federation Army,” he said.

He said the Russians are “behind schedule,” “taking significant casualties,” and are facing public protests inside their own country.

“But the Russian handbook is to then get more violent and commit more forces,” he said, because in the Russian doctrine “the lives of their own soldiers matter much less than in other armed forces.”

“So we have to brace ourselves for what may come next, which could be ruthless, indiscriminate bombing of cities and propelling forward of soldiers and high casualty levels, and that’s going to be horrific.”

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat takes part in a meeting of a conservative research group in Westminster hall in London on April 9, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Tom Tugendhat, a senior Conservative MP who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons, said Russia could give an order to use battlefield nuclear weapons.

He told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme: “The Russian military doctrine doesn’t work in the same way as the NATO military doctrine. They do assume that they may use battlefield nuclear weapons and they see them as just a, if you’ll excuse the expression, a bigger bang. They don’t treat fallout in the same way we do.”

He added that although the situation was “concerning,” it was not unprecedented for Russia to threaten nuclear action.

“This is not unusual but at the same time it is concerning and it is not impossible a Russian military order to use battlefield nuclear weapons could be given.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang


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