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Why Putin needs nuclear exercises: Expert names dictator's likely goal

Why Putin needs nuclear exercises: Expert names dictator's likely goal Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to conduct military exercises involving the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons. Allegedly, this decision is linked to statements from the West about readiness to deploy troops in Ukraine.

Discover the true intentions of Russia and whether there is indeed a risk of nuclear escalation in the material by RBС-Ukraine below.

During the preparation of the material, the following sources were used: statements from the Russian Ministry of Defense, statements from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, statements from Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, information from the Center for Countering Disinformation at the National Security and Defense Council, comments from representative of the Main Directorate of Intelligence (MDI) Andrii Yusov, and an exclusive commentary from military expert Pavlo Narozhnyy.


Russia is preparing nuclear exercises: What is known

Today, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement claiming that, supposedly, the General Staff, under the orders of President Vladimir Putin, has begun preparations for conducting exercises involving tactical nuclear weapons. It is announced that missile units of the Southern Military District, as well as aviation and naval forces, will participate, but the exact location is not specified.

Regarding the purpose, according to the Russian version, the exercises are being prepared in response to the so-called "provocative statements and threats from Western officials" and will be conducted "in the near future." The specific statements in question were clarified by the Kremlin. Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Russian exercises involving non-strategic nuclear weapons are "related to statements from the West about readiness to send troops to Ukraine" (he does not name specific individuals, but judging from his words, it refers to the ideas of French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the deployment of Western troops to Ukraine).

Peskov's words were echoed by Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, who stated that the exercises would be a response to "provocative statements and threats from certain Western officials."

Reaction of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) and the Main Directorate of Intelligence (MDI)

Ukraine has already begun to react to the plans of the aggressor country. According to Andrii Kovalenko, the head of the Center for Countering Disinformation at the NSDC, this is another manipulation by the enemy.

"This is a response to discussions about the possibility of involving Western troops in Ukraine and nuclear weapons in Poland. But you have noticed that since 2022, nothing has changed, they have no bigger scare tactics than manipulation with nuclear weapons. Accordingly, we just need to step over them and move on," believes Kovalenko.

The Center for Countering Disinformation adds that Russia's return to overt nuclear blackmail indicates fear in the Kremlin and the absence of other levers of influence on the situation. The Center believes that Moscow fully understands the catastrophic consequences for Russia itself in the event of nuclear weapon use. The sole purpose of Russian exercises and such statements is an attempt to intimidate the world and force concessions.

The statement of the Russian Ministry of Defense was also commented on by the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. Ukrainian intelligence representative Andrii Yusov says that currently, apart from the informational effect, nothing new is observed.

"It is clear that all necessary information is being collected. Ukrainian special services and the entire free world are working on this. Nuclear blackmail is a stable practice of the Putin regime. So, there is no epoch-making news here," assured Yusov.

Expert names Putin's goal

Military expert Pavlo Narozhnyi, in a comment to RBC-Ukraine, noted that Putin's rattling of weapons, nuclear threats, and escalation of nuclear conflict is not new.

"What could be the options: if it's strategic nuclear weapons, it's a weapon that can destroy Kyiv in one strike. But is Putin ready for such a level of escalation? This means that instead of a country, there will simply be a nuclear wasteland. And this strike will not only be against Ukraine, but against all NATO countries; the pollution will be simply unbelievable, radioactive rains will fall in Paris and Frankfurt," says the expert.

He explained that taking tactical nuclear weapons as an example (which was mentioned today by the Russian Ministry of Defense), if it were to be used, contamination would also occur over a large part of the territory, but with fewer consequences.

"What benefit can he get? It's a strike that will destroy a front area from 2 to 5 kilometers. That means there will be a huge explosion. But this also means that Russian infantry will have to advance through this contaminated territory, and they will have to hold defense there, they can't just pass through and move on. So, from a purely military point of view, getting any advantage is unlikely. But getting global isolation is possible," notes Narozhnyy.

The expert reminds that currently Putin has the opportunity to trade with first-world countries, for example, by selling oil to Europe. However, in the case of using nuclear weapons, the dictator will face such isolation that his economy simply won't withstand it. This includes pressure from China, which often expresses that nuclear weapons should not be used under any circumstances.

"He (Putin) won't even be able to work with his dictator friends. Therefore, the use of nuclear weapons is unlikely. This rattling - we conducted exercises, transferred tactical nuclear weapons, deployed them on the territory of Belarus, we positioned ships with tactical nuclear weapons somewhere in the Baltic Sea. This is more like rattling, to keep Europeans and Americans in constant tension," believes the expert.

Chemical weapons as an alternative

According to Narozhnyy, the more probable scenario is the use of chemical weapons, which Russia already employs.

"They drop grenades with chlorine. There's unconfirmed use of artillery shells with chemical weapons. They are walking a fine line here; yes, they are violating agreements on the non-use of chemical weapons, they are violating the Geneva Convention, and so on. But for now, it seems that Europe, although very concerned about the use of chemical weapons, has already seen many examples of the use of the same Novichok against politicians, spies, and so on," explains the expert.

According to the expert, the West understands that nuclear exercises are just rattling. Because if Western countries were afraid, Ukraine would not receive any military support.

"That package of 60 billion from the USA would be unrealistic, we wouldn't receive any artillery shells or artillery if the West perceived this as 100% use of nuclear weapons. Nobody wants nuclear contamination on their territory. Everyone understands perfectly well that Putin's task is to remain in power until death, and for his descendants to inherit the kingdom. So that they could live just as the top of Russia lives. For this, they are building holdings where they hide billions," notes Narozhnyy.

The expert adds that Putin's goal is not to turn the whole world into nuclear ash, as his propaganda claims.

"His task is to gain much more power, wealth, and to ensure that Russians are in servitude and provide for the life of the KGB-like (the intelligence and internal-security agency of the former Soviet Union - ed.) top, which essentially is the government in Russia. But to get a life in a bunker, where you won't be able to come up to the surface and enjoy the life he had - that's not his goal," summed up Narozhnyy.

Reference. The Russian Federation possesses the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads in the world. Their quantity is approximately 5580 units. Among them: 1200 are decommissioned but mostly intact, and 4380 are stored for use with strategic long-range missiles and tactical nuclear forces of lesser range.

It's worth noting that after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia put its nuclear forces on "special alert," and the authorities began to talk about nuclear tests more frequently. For example, last year, the Russian Ministry of Defense conducted scheduled nuclear exercises, and in October 2023, the Russian Armed Forces once again conducted exercises based on a scenario that has existed for decades. These exercises involved missile launches from submarines and from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome to a range in Kamchatka. These exercises were referred to as "practicing response to enemy strikes."