Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Pugnacious Putin Flaunts His Nuclear Arsenal
Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past week twice shook world leaders back to reality by reminding them not to box Russia into a corner because it wields a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Yes, today Putin is not President Obama’s reset partner, with whom he can talk about world peace, security and stability. If any discussion about the future of the planet should surface, then Vladimir Putin would lead the conversation while everyone else follows quietly.
For too long the US, EU and other regional associations have allowed Russia to pursue its foreign policy goals with impunity. Periodically the United States would stand up and oppose Russia’s policies and occasionally Moscow would appear to relent only to re-emerge stronger. Basically, it was an innocent cat and mouse game between Moscow and Washington until January 2014, when Russia invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, occupied it and after a fabricated referendum, it annexed Crimea for itself. And even that was unthinkable for many to accept.
Like an animal after its first bloody kill, Moscow would not be harnessed into submission and it would not be satiated. It again tested its military prowess on the battlefield of Ukraine by sending in its mercenaries and then its regular army. The west halfheartedly protested at first and then reluctantly introduced sanctions but it was not able to subdue Moscow.
Nonetheless the free world continued to yelp in Ukraine’s defense until Moscow reminded Washington and its allies that it has nuclear weapons.
With the x-captive nations anticipation turning to the NATO summit later this week, and amid growing international criticism for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to Wales for a NATO summit and to Estonia next week, Putin blithely cautioned his opponents “it is better not to mess with Russia” because it is “one of the most powerful nuclear nations.”
Putin chose to express this warning last week at a youth camp as ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying: “I want to say immediately that Russia is far from getting involved into any large-scale conflicts. We do not want and do not intend to do this. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words," Putin went on to say. "We are strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces and our armed forces. They are getting more compact and more efficient at the same time. They are getting more modernized in terms of their supply with the latest armaments. We continue building up this potential and we'll be doing this in the future," Putin said. Earlier stories quotes him as saying that Russia would allocated $500 billion toward enhancing its military and nuclear capabilities.
The reminder was not merely a campfire story for up and coming Russian chauvinists. It was clearly meant as a signal to timid Western leaders that they would have to deal with a possible Russian nuclear retaliation if they decided to protect Ukraine and the other x-captive nations.
Putin said Moscow is enhancing its nuclear power not “to threaten anyone but to feel secure and calm and have the possibilities to implement those plans, which we have for the development of the economy and the social sphere.”
“We must always be ready to repel any aggression against Russia and our partners should always be aware that no matter in which condition their governments may be or which foreign policy concepts they may pursue, it is better not to come against Russia as regards a possible armed conflict,” Putin said.
The Daily Beast specifically noted “that same day, Putin used a term for eastern Ukraine meaning ‘New Russia.’ So when he refers to repelling ‘any aggression against Russia’ and speaks of ‘nuclear deterrence,’ as he did on Friday, the Russian president is really warning us he will use nukes to protect his grab of Ukrainian territory.”
While he stunned the world with his outright warning that he would not think twice about retaliating with nuclear weapons, this was not the first time that Putin and any Russian leader said they would use the nuclear option. Over the years, Putin has said that Russia is rebuilding its military might to repel any enemy that dares to oppose or invade it. Furthermore, its defense and security policies embed the language of nuclear deterrence as Russia proceeds to rebuild the ancient glory of the Russian empire.
Reading Putin is like reading Hitler. You have to believe both of them.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that Putin bragged in a phone call to European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso that he could “seize Kyiv in two weeks” if he wanted to.
As for vanquishing Ukraine, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey said Russia has threatened Ukraine with nuclear retaliation if it continues to fight Russian mercenaries in eastern Ukraine.
Writing on his Facebook page yesterday, Heletey said: “The Russian side has threatened on several occasions across unofficial channels that, in the case of continued resistance they are ready to use a tactical nuclear weapon against us.”
He also said Russia’s “hybrid war” in Ukraine is at an end, accusing Russia of attempting a “full-scale invasion.” Heletey called for all Ukrainian forces to “consolidate” and “begin building defenses against Russia,” insisting today “the operation to liberate the eastern Ukraine against terrorism is complete.”
None of this is some rabid American conservative’s speculation about what Russia would do if provoked. None of this is the assumption of a Ukrainian nationalist leader about Russia’s plans for dominating Ukraine and the world.
They are words, threats and plans expressed today by the leader by one of the world’s greatest nuclear powers. A leader who has shaken hands with other world leaders. The other world leader does not yet have a military plan about combating Russia and protecting Ukraine and the x-captive nations. In the meantime, some government officials in Kyiv have perhaps correctly said that Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arsenal too quickly and it should begin rebuilding its stockpile.