Vladimir Putin may be ready to risk another world war, Nikita Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter warned after the Russian leader joked about the prospect of a nuclear Armageddon last night.
Nina Khrushcheva, a professor of international relations at The New School in New York, said the dictator’s “grand rhetoric” about a “new world order” suggests he is considering a global showdown.
Ms Khrushcheva, who is currently in Russia, also warned that the public is stocking up on radiation pills and “preparing for something catastrophic” because no one knows what Putin will do next.
Last night in Moscow, the Kremlin leader was asked to reassure an audience from think tank the Valdai Discussion Club that the world is not on the brink of nuclear destruction – and chose to respond with a long pause.
When host Fyodor Lukyanov pointed out that his silence was “alarming,” a grinning Putin replied, “I did that on purpose so you’d be wary. The effect has been achieved.’
Speaking to a Moscow think tank last night, Vladimir Putin jokes about the prospect of nuclear destruction as he warns that the world is at its most dangerous since World War II
A Russian nuclear missile is fired during test exercises earlier this week, which propagandists said was a rehearsal for destroying the UK and US.
Putin used his annual speech to the Valdai Club to set out his foreign policy agenda, proclaiming that the Western world order is crumbling and that the time has come to establish a “multipolar world order” in which Moscow has a greater gets a vote.
While blaming Western leaders for fueling the war flames in Ukraine and Taiwan, Putin also accused them of fueling an energy crisis and strangling global food markets — all things that have been criticized.
Putin also spoke extensively about nuclear weapons, after threatening the West with a nuclear attack on several occasions – raising fears that he would also use one in Ukraine.
The Russian despot denied that he has any plans to use one on his neighbor, saying there is “no political or military justification” for doing so.
But he also referred to Russia’s nuclear doctrine that allows them to be used in the event of a threat to the country that – at least according to the Kremlin – now includes occupied parts of Ukraine.
At one point, host Lukyanov pointed out that Friday marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis — which was resolved when Nikita Khrushchev chose to withdraw Soviet nuclear weapons from Cuba.
Putin was asked if he could imagine taking Khrushchev’s stance if the crisis were to repeat itself, and replied, “No way.”
Asked if that means there won’t be a nuclear stalemate, or if he would have refused to withdraw, Putin simply replied, “I can’t imagine myself in the role of Khrushchev.”
On BBC Radio 4, Nina Khrushcheva said Putin “clearly doesn’t think in the same terms” as her great-grandfather.
Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar shell at the frontline near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine,
A Russian fighter jet flies over the wreckage of a burning train somewhere on the Eastern Front near the city of Donetsk after it was hit by shelling
Ukrainian soldiers prepare a mortar shell to fire on the frontline at Bakhmut, the site of the toughest battle against Russian forces in the Donetsk region
“When Khrushchev was overthrown, one of the charges was that he took missiles from Cuban and after that the Soviet Union looked weak.
‘Khrushchev said, ‘What, I had to start a world war?’
Putin clearly doesn’t think in those terms. He thinks ‘it’s our way’ and the way I decide it will be and we won’t back down.
“I’m not going to put words in his mouth – he didn’t say ‘otherwise it’s going to be a world war’ – but it looks like… he might be ready for a war instead of changing his political behavior.”
Asked about the current atmosphere in Russia, where she works, Khrushcheva said there is a “tangible” sense of paranoia about what Putin will do.
“Society is getting more desperate,” she said. ‘It’s frozen in despair – not even fear, despair – we don’t know what’s going to happen [or] what tomorrow brings.
‘The last month of the nuclear talk…there is a story’ [that sales of radiation pills] went up 70 percent. People are preparing for something catastrophic.”
Fears of nuclear escalation are mounting as the war in Ukraine enters its ninth month with Kiev at the forefront and Putin nowhere near reaching his goals.
Although the official goal of the invasion remains the “liberation” of the eastern region of Donbas, according to Vladimir, in reality his forces have stopped advancing almost everywhere except the city of Bakhmut, in Donetsk.
Ukrainian soldiers shoot from the seized Russian T-80 tank on a road near the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk
Russian nuclear-powered submarine ‘Tula’ prepares to launch a ‘Sineva’ ballistic missile to Kura Test Range during training exercises
Meanwhile, they are being pushed back into the northern region of Kharkov and the southern region of Kherson, the latter of which has declared itself part of Russia.
That has led to fears that he could resort to nuclear weapons after saying he would use “all available means” to defend the territory.
Meanwhile, Moscow claims Ukraine is preparing to detonate a so-called “dirty bomb” on its territory, i.e. a conventional explosive laced with radioactive material to cause contamination.
The UN nuclear watchdog has now been sent to two areas in Ukraine, where Putin claims the bomb is being prepared – at the urging of Kiev – while President Zelensky and his allies dismiss the claims as fiction.
Instead, they say Russia may be preparing the ground to use one of its own nuclear weapons as a pretext to escalate the conflict.
Joe Biden, asked about Putin’s claim that he would never use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, replied last night: “Why does he keep talking about it?
Why is he talking about the possibility of using a tactical nuclear weapon? He’s been very dangerous in the way he’s approached this and he should just get out.
“He can put an end to this, get out of Ukraine.”
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