Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that possession of nuclear weapons protects Russia from security threats and that Moscow continually reminded the West of the risk of a nuclear conflict.
Lavrov’s comments are the latest reference by Russian officials to their country’s nuclear weapons arsenal, a rhetoric of military escalation by Moscow that has gained tempo and frequency since Russian forces invaded Ukraine last year.
Last month, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would have to use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian troops was a success.
“The possession of nuclear arms is today the only possible response to some of the significant external threats to the security of our country,” Lavrov said in an interview for the state-owned magazine, The International Affairs, published early on Saturday on the foreign ministry website.
Lavrov said that the United States and NATO military alliance members risk ending up in “a situation of direct armed confrontation of nuclear powers”.
“We believe such a development should be prevented. That’s why we have to remind about the existence of high military and political risks and send sobering signals to our opponents,” Lavrov said.
NATO members and the US are Ukraine’s staunchest supporters and the largest providers of military aid in its war against Russia.
US President Joe Biden has called a threat of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons “real”. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said this week that the Western military alliance has not detected any changes to Russia’s nuclear force stance, and therefore, NATO did not need to reciprocate in its nuclear posture.
On Thursday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, warned that he would use the nuclear weapons that Russia had deployed in his country if faced with external aggression.
“There can be only one threat – aggression against our country. If aggression against our country starts from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, we will respond instantly with everything we have,” Lukashenko said in an interview.
Washington, DC-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, said earlier this year that Russia’s increasing nuclear war rhetoric was part of an “information operation” focused on discouraging Ukraine and its Western supporter.
“Russian invocations of nuclear threats and nuclear doctrine are part of an information operation meant to discourage Ukraine and the West but do not represent any material Russian intent to employ nuclear weapons,” the think tank said in an assessment.__Al Jazeera