While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased fear about nuclear war to its highest levels since the height of the Cold War, Russia has appeared to issue more measured statements yesterday, saying it is not planning or preparing for an “apocalyptic” scenario.
“We start from the premise that this apocalyptic script is not going to be carried out under any pretext under any conditions,” Russian Foreign Ministry's Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told W Radio in Colombia when asked about what it would take for Russia to push the "nuclear button." “I think you guys confuse us with other people. As far as the use of nuclear weapons is concerned, we have reconfirmed our initial position, maybe we are confused with the United States, but in the Russian Federation, this has never been discussed."
The interview was translated to Spanish in real time, and the statement above is translated from that Spanish. However, the state-owned Russian news agency RIA also published a story about the interview and Zakharova statement about the “nuclear button.”
That statement is far less threatening than two previous statements from Russian President Vladimir Putin recently that seemed to signal Russia’s willingness to use nuclear weapons if any countries interfered with its war with Ukraine.
Zakharova repeats familiar Russian talking point throughout the rest of the interview, claiming that Ukraine has deployed soldiers to fight Ukrainians in the Eastern part of the country, and that NATO is to blame for the current escalation because it provided weapons to Ukraine and carried out exercises that provoked Russia and threatened its security.
On Sunday, Putin announced that Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces were moving to high alert as a response to NATO aggression. “Western countries aren't only taking unfriendly economic actions against our country, but leaders of major NATO countries are making aggressive statements about our country,” Putin said in a televised address. “So I order to move Russia's deterrence forces to a special regime of duty.”
On Feb. 23, in a statement announcing the invasion of Ukraine, Putin told the West not to intervene in the conflict. The consequences of doing so, Putin said, “will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.” Experts took this as a veiled reference to nuclear war.
In response to these statements from Putin, the United States has repeatedly signaled it will not escalate its own nuclear alert levels, engage in a war directly with Russia, or establish a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine.