News and Analysis

Putin Raises Nuclear Deterrent Forces To ‘Special Combat Readiness’
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 22, 2022: Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives comments to the media after a ceremony to sign a declaration on allied cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan at Moscow's Kremlin. Sergei Guneyev/POOL/TASS (Photo by Sergei GuneyevTASS via Getty Images)
Sergei GuneyevTASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin raised his nuclear deterrent forces to an elevated alert status Sunday, citing “aggressive statements” from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and increased sanctions against his regime.

As Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine entered its fourth full day, Putin lamented, “Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country.”

As Fox News reported:

Putin ordered the Russian defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.” The move signals tensions could boil over into a nuclear war. 

“He is right now threatening a nuclear escalation,” said former DIA intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler. “This a veiled threat – or maybe such a veiled threat – he just met with his chief of general staff and minister of defense. He is escalating the conflict into the nuclear domain in order to de-escalate – that is topple Kyiv’s regime quickly.”

Putin’s move to raise the alert level prompted his military to prepare nuclear weapons for a potential launch, marking the second time in recent days that the Russian President has issued a veiled or direct threat of nuclear escalation. As the invasion began several days ago, Putin warned that “consequences you have never seen” would be visited upon any nation daring to interfere with Russia’s actions.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Linda Thomas Greenfield responded to Russia’s latest move during a Sunday morning appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” saying “It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable and we have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a concurrent statement on CNN, saying,  “This is dangerous rhetoric. This is behavior which is irresponsible. That’s the reason why we both provide support to Ukraine but also why we over the last weeks and months have significantly increased the presence of NATO in the eastern part of the alliance.”

In the days since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United States and other allies have imposed numerous sanctions on the Russian financial sector, even ousting several Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

The U.S. and other allies also issued a statement condemning Russia’s actions and committing to standing with Ukraine: “We stand with the Ukrainian people in this dark hour. Even beyond the measures we are announcing today, we are prepared to take further measures to hold Russia to account for its attack on Ukraine.”

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