Reiterating Moscow’s nuclear posture, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the country may deploy nuclear weapons only if Russia’s existence is threatened.
“Nuclear weapons have been made to ensure our security in the broadest sense of the word and the existence of the Russian state, but we…have no such need [to use them for now],” he said, addressing Russia’s flagship economic forum in St Petersburg on Friday.
The Russian head of state also confirmed that the country had already started deploying tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, saying the move was a reminder to the West that it could not inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.
“As you know, we were negotiating with our ally, [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko, that we would move a part of these tactical nuclear weapons to the territory of Belarus – this has happened,” said Putin.
“The first nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus. But only the first ones, the first part. But we will do this job completely by the end of the summer or by the end of the year.”
It was in late March that Putin said his country was set to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
According to the statesman, the move was aimed at expanding Russia’s scope of strategic influence and increase its deterrence in the face of the US-led military alliance of NATO’s exceeding military support for Ukraine, where Moscow has been engaged in a “special military operation” since last year.
“As for demilitarization, soon Ukraine will stop using its own equipment altogether. There’s nothing left. Everything on which they fight and everything that they use is brought in from the outside. Well, you can’t fight like that for long,” Putin said.
He also warned the West against supplying American-made warplanes to Kiev.
Ukraine’s Western-supplied hardware such as German-made Leopard tanks were being regularly destroyed and if Kiev received the aircraft, they would go up in flames too, he said.
“F-16s will also be burning, there is no doubt,” the Russian president said, and also cautioned the West against deploying the aircraft against Russia outside the Ukrainian territory.
“If they (the warplanes) will be stationed outside Ukraine and used in combat operations, we will have to look at how to engage and where to engage those assets being used in combat operations against us,” Putin noted.
That, he said, represented “a serious danger” of dragging NATO further into the conflict.