NATO, Western governments ponder next move after Putin orders his nuclear forces upgraded to “special” readiness amid ongoing Ukraine war
02/28/2022 // JD Heyes // Views

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday ordered his country's nuclear forces upgraded to a "special" readiness status as his troops became bogged down in Ukraine, having failed to take key objectives amid tougher-than-expected resistance.

In raising the stakes of the world's first nuclear war, Putin, expectedly, blamed the West.

"Western countries are not only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic area. I'm speaking about the illegitimate sanctions that everyone is well aware of. However, the top officials of the leading NATO countries also make aggressive statements against our country as well," he told his citizens via televised address.

"For this reason, I order the minister of defense and the chief of general staff to put deterrent forces on special combat duty," he added.

Interestingly, five of the declared nuclear powers -- including Putin's Russia -- just put out a joint statement in January (just a few weeks ago) pledging to avoid at all costs a nuclear exchange:

The People’s Republic of China, the French Republic, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America consider the avoidance of war between Nuclear-Weapon States and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities.


We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented. 

"We reaffirm the importance of addressing nuclear threats and emphasize the importance of preserving and complying with our bilateral and multilateral non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and commitments," the joint declaration continued. "We each intend to maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorized or unintended use of nuclear weapons. We reiterate the validity of our previous statements on de-targeting, reaffirming that none of our nuclear weapons are targeted at each other or at any other State. "

So much for that piece of paper, which has just been made nearly worthless by Putin's action.

His order to his nuclear forces has given NATO and the West a major new military wrinkle to consider when it comes to further responses, however.

“I’m more worried than I was a week ago,” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Vox Media.

He went on to point out that NATO was then forced to increase its readiness levels for “all contingencies” in response to Putin’s speech, and that with such heightened conditions they could necessarily lead to uncertainty and a miscalculation.

“That’s the fog of war, so to speak,” Kristensen continued. “Out of that can come twists and turns that take you down a path that you couldn’t predict a week ago.”

When he was asked about the Russian leader's decision to place his nuclear forces on higher alert, Kristensen replied, “There is nothing in Russia’s stated public nuclear doctrine that justifies this.” He added, “Putin has now taken yet another step that unnecessarily escalates the situation to what appears to be a direct nuclear threat.”

What is clear is that Putin is trying to reconstitute the old Soviet Union that he misses and loves much more than democracy. Ukraine is just the next step in that process.

Sources include:

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