Russian President Vladimir Putin’s televised address in which he put his country’s nuclear commanders on high alert has attracted fierce criticism and panic from the west as some countries have scrambled to raise their defenses.
According to reports by several international media outlets, Putin asked his commanders to be ready to respond to the crippling economic sanctions with a possible nuclear attack on a country for imposing sanctions against his country.
“Not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension – I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone knows about very well – but also the top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country,” he said on state television.
Russia’s unprecedented recourse to the nuclear war came amid biting economic sanctions imposed on Russia as well as growing military support for Ukraine by western countries.
Putin’s nuclear rhetoric came on the fourth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where it met stronger resistance than it had anticipated. On Saturday, Russian forces were repulsed from Ukraine’s second biggest city of Khirkiv.
The United States said Putin’s reference to the possibility of using nuclear arms, is unthinkable and unacceptable.
The Biden administration on Sunday condemned Vladimir Putin’s decision to place Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert.
White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, described the nuclear deterrence announcement as an example of Putin “manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression”.
Military experts say that Putin’s decision to raise the prospect of nuclear war either against Ukraine or any other western power, also came amidst failure to achieve swift victory in Ukraine as the Russians had wanted.
Russia’s nuclear rhetoric has united European countries but also brought about panic.
For the first time in history, the European Union agreed to send arms to Ukraine to fight Russia.
Josep Borrell, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy said that Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine ‘Is a matter of life and death. So the EU will provide weapons for Ukraine’s armed forces.’
Borrell’s comments came after the EU, for the first time, agreed to purchase and send arms to Ukraine worth over $500 million.
Meanwhile European leaders have praised Ukraine’s President Volodmyl Zelensky’s bravery and offered more support to his resistance campaign against Russia;
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “President Zelensky’s leadership and his bravery, and the resilience of the Ukrainian people, are outstanding and impressive. They are an inspiration for all of us.” She called the new policy toward Ukraine a “watershed moment.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that member states will provide fighter jets to Ukraine, not just ammunition.
- Germany, which had come under intense criticism for refusing to export weapons to Ukraine during the military buildup, reversed its position and said it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine.
- Sweden, an EU member that is not in NATO and has historically maintained a neutral position in global conflicts, said it will send 5,000 anti-tank weapons, 5,000 helmets, 5,000 body shields and 135,000 field rations — as well as $50 million in funding directly to the Ukrainian military.
- Denmark will transfer 2,700 anti-tank weapons and allow volunteers to join a foreign brigade to fight with Ukraine.
- Belgium is sending an additional 3,000 machine guns and 200 anti-tank grenade launchers, Zelensky tweeted Sunday.
- Hungary said it would not provide arms to Ukraine but committed to sending 100,000 liters of fuel and 28 tons of food, according to Ukrainian authorities.