Analysis. “Weapons exist in order to use them. We have our own principles,” namely Russia’s doctrine which states that nuclear weapons may be used in case of a threat to “the existence of the Russian state, our sovereignty and independence.”

Putin: ‘We’re ready to use weapons – all weapons’

“We are ready to use weapons, all weapons if any attempt is made to undermine our sovereignty and independence.”

With the quiet, almost sardonic expression of one who is explaining a truism and the broad gestures contrasting with the fixity of his increasingly dark eyes, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again reiterated that Moscow was ready to raise the level of hostilities. On Wednesday, with two days to go before elections that would undoubtedly reappoint him to the Kremlin, the czar was interviewed by broadcaster Russia1 and once again warned the world about the risk of nuclear escalation. Later on, his Foreign Ministry announced that Russia would not take part in the peace conference being organized in Switzerland.

This time, the Russian president no longer played the role of the leader willing to stop the war but hindered by the U.S. and NATO. Instead, he put on the uniform of the general ready to go to any lengths.

In response to a question about whether nuclear warheads would be deployed in Ukraine, he said: “Weapons exist in order to use them. We have our own principles,” namely Russia’s doctrine which states that nuclear weapons may be used in case of a threat to “the existence of the Russian state, our sovereignty and independence.”

The president added that “there has never been a need” for Russia to use its atomic arsenal, but also said that “the nations that say they have no red lines regarding Russia should realize that Russia won’t have any red lines regarding them either.”

The head of state’s words came after days of discussions in the West about French President Macron’s hypothetical suggestion of sending NATO troops to Ukraine and, most importantly, after revelations by German Chancellor Scholz and Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski that small groups of military personnel from NATO countries (most likely the US, France and the UK) are already on Ukrainian soil. Moscow said in response that this was not news to them, while on Wednesday Putin reiterated that the possible presence of Atlantic Alliance military personnel among Kyiv’s units “won’t change the situation on the battlefield, just as the supply of weapons won’t change it.”

The Russian president had pointed criticism for the recent accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, calling it “a meaningless step” from the point of view of protecting their national interests, because previously Russia had “no troops” on the more than 1,000-kilometer border separating Russia from Finland, but “now there will be [troops].” He also claimed that weapons systems with high destructive power would be brought to the border and that such weapons hadn’t been there before (an assertion one might doubt). In other words, in the macabre game that international diplomacy has been playing in recent years, Vladimir Putin wanted to reiterate that he wasn’t afraid to ratchet up the level of bloodshed.

Concluding a morning full of fiery statements, Moscow Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russian officials would not travel to Switzerland, where they had been formally invited by the head of Swiss diplomacy, Ignazio Cassis, who had made it clear that “we’re not going to have a peace conference without Russia, this is not possible.”

“Russia does not intend to take part in such a conference,” since it would be a continuation of the “Copenhagen format” meetings that have discredited themselves, Zakharova claimed. Moreover, she said that “Switzerland can hardly serve as a site for various peacekeeping efforts, as this implies a neutral status, which Bern has lost,” leaving no room for any course reversal on participation.

Shortly afterwards, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accused the West of being “obsessed with inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia. It is enough to cite the statements of [French President Emmanuel] Macron on sending NATO soldiers to Ukraine, but also a series of other absurd statements made by the leaders of European states.”

In this high-tension climate, the Russian presidential elections will take place over the weekend – the first ones in which the occupied territories in Ukraine will also be able to vote.

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