Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to put its nuclear forces on “special alert” – the highest level of alert for Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces reports BBC World News.
Speaking to top military officials, including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Sunday, Putin said Western nations had taken “unfriendly actions” towards Russia and imposed “illegitimate sanctions”.
BBC News security correspondent, Gordon Corera, however, said the move by Putin does not mean there is a current intent to use them.
Corera opined that Putin’s 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 being too much.
The United States has responded to Putin’s order putting Russia’s nuclear forces on a “special” state of alert as “unacceptable”.
In an interview with CBS News, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said:
“It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable and we have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that at no point has Russia been under threat from NATO. She told ABC News that Putin has a tendency to blame NATO. Said Psaki:
“We’ve seen him do this time and time again. At no point has Russia been under threat from Nato, has Russia been under threat from Ukraine.
“This is all a pattern from President Putin and we’re going to stand up to it.
“We have the ability to defend ourselves, but we also need to call out what we’re seeing here from President Putin.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that if Russia uses nuclear weapons against Ukraine it will be a “catastrophe for the world”.
Kuleba said Putin’s announcement is aimed at raising the stakes and putting additional pressure on the Ukrainian delegation for proposed talks between the two countries.
Meanwhile, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Vladimir Putin’s order to the Russian military to put its nuclear forces on a higher level of alert is “dangerous” and “irresponsible”.