As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, Putin activates Russia’s nuclear forces.

As international tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine escalated, President Vladimir Putin made a “unprecedented” post-Cold War measure on Sunday, February 27, ordering his nuclear deterrent forces to be on alert.

The decision was made, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in response to “aggressive rhetoric” by senior NATO states.

As a result of the decision, Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear weapons to be prepped for higher readiness to fire, boosting the risk of a nuclear conflict. The Russian president again mentioned the harsh financial sanctions imposed by the West against Russia and himself in his speech.

Putin urged his defense minister and the commander of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special situation” at a meeting with his senior officials.

“Not only are Western countries adopting unfriendly economic actions against our country, but top officials from prominent NATO members have made aggressive statements about our country,” Putin said in a televised broadcast.

Putin had warned to punish violently against any countries that interfered directly in Ukraine’s conflict before invading, and he especially raised the specter of his country’s nuclear status.

The order’s practical implications were not immediately obvious. The land- and submarine-based portions of Russia’s and the United States’ strategic nuclear forces are normally on alert and ready for war at all times, but nuclear-capable bombers and other aircraft are not.

If Putin is arming or otherwise raising the nuclear combat readiness of his bombers, or if he is ordering more ballistic missile submarines to sea, then the United States might feel compelled to respond in kind, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. That would mark a worrisome escalation and a potential crisis, he said.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, told NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday morning that “President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable.”

“And we have to continue to condemn his actions in the most strong, strongest possible way,” she added.

The alarming step came as street fighting broke out in Ukraine’s second-largest city and Russian troops squeezed strategic ports in the country’s south, advances that appeared to mark a new phase of Russia’s invasion following a wave of attacks on airfields and fuel facilities elsewhere in the country.

Categorized as News

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