In the last few weeks, Russian federal channels have increasingly mentioned the possibility of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons. The threat of a nuclear strike comes amid no significant success in Vladimir Putin’s “special operation” in Ukraine.
Experts admit that such rhetoric can be aimed at the West – to force Western countries to make concessions, and the domestic audience: then the possible purpose of these discussions – to prepare the population that Russia will not achieve victory in Ukraine.
“Why do we need such a world if there is no Russia in it”
On the evening of May 8, Dmitry Kiselev, the host of Vesti Nedeli, announced on the air of Russia-1 that Russia could use nuclear weapons. In the story “See Item 17”, Kiselyov said that Russia’s relations with the United States are becoming increasingly tense – because Washington shares intelligence with Ukraine, sanctions and “much more.”
“Obviously, the United States aims not just to contain Russia, but to completely destroy our country, to abolish it, if you will, in modern terms,” Kiselyov concluded, adding that the US Congress has openly stated that America is at war with Russia and cannot to lose.
“If that’s the case, and if someone wants to threaten our very existence, then we have Putin’s logic: why should we have such a world if there is no Russia in it? And here, see point 17. [указа президента] on the foundations of the state policy of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear deterrence, “Kiselev said.
Next, viewers are shown the 17th paragraph of the relevant document. It states that “Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in the event of aggression against it, when the very existence of the state is threatened.”
Kiselyov had already shown the same document in his program a week earlier, on May 1, in the story “Sunken Island”. In it, the propagandist talks about “the special role that Britain plays in the fate of Ukraine” and that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “persuades Kyiv to continue fighting, promising help and even a nuclear strike on Russia.”
“Johnson said that if Russia uses at least some weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine, Britain, without consulting NATO, reserves the right to strike back on its own,” Kiselyov said.
The news that Boris Johnson had threatened to carry out a nuclear strike on Russia appeared in a number of Russian and Ukrainian media outlets in late April and caused a stir among Russian propagandists. In reality, Johnson did not say that, the office of the British Prime Minister in late April even issued a statementin which he rejected this information and called it “another example of disinformation disseminated by the Kremlin.”
The Downing Street refutation did not prevent Kiselyov from quoting Johnson’s fake statement on May 1 and discussing it for about five minutes.
“Why threaten the nuclear weapons of endless Russia, sitting on, in general, a small island? The island is so small that just one Sarmat missile is enough to drown it once and for all,” says Kiselev, and viewers are shown at the moment a map of the world from which the British Isles disappear as a result of a simulated rocket launch.
At the end of the story, Kiselyov emphasizes that “Russia has no plans to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly spoken about this, the host added.
What Russian officials say
Russian officials have repeatedly stated that there is no question that Russia can use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. At the same time, Lavrov said on Channel One on April 25 that the threat of nuclear war is now quite real. “The danger is serious, it is real, it should not be underestimated,” he said.
On April 28, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called false allegations in the West about the threat of nuclear war emanating from Russia.
On February 28, four days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Russian President Vladimir Putin transferred the nuclear deterrent force to a “special combat duty.”
In a speech on February 24, Putin addressed those “who may be tempted to interfere in [в Украине] events “:” Whoever tries to hinder us, and even more so to create threats to our country, to our people, must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history. We are ready for any development. All necessary decisions have been made in this regard. I hope to be heard. “
Putin reiterated a similar threat at a meeting with the Council of Legislators in late April: fast “.
“There’s no way we’re just going to put our feet up.”
According to Medialogia, the number of mentions of nuclear war on Russian federal channels took off on April 25, when Lavrov made a statement that the threat of a nuclear war was real.
After that, nuclear war was talked about on Russian television almost daily, although from April 15 to April 25 it was mentioned less than five times a day, or not mentioned at all, according to Medialogia.
On April 28, on the air of the program “60 minutes” on “Russia-1” viewers were shown an infographic “Time of flight of RS-28” Sarmat “missiles to the capitals of the countries that give Ukraine the most weapons.” It showed a map with the scheme and time of the potential flight of missiles launched from Kaliningrad to London, Paris and Berlin.
Threats of the use of nuclear weapons began to sound on Russian federal channels against the background of the lack of any significant success in the war against Ukraine.
On April 26, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT and MIA Rossiya Segodnya, said on the air of the program “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” on Russia-1, discussing the possibility of the failure of the Russian “special operation”. Vladimirovich, there is no chance that we will just put our feet up. “
“The most incredible thing is that in the end it will all end in a nuclear strike, it still seems more likely to me than this development,” Simonyan said.
What the experts say
Threats to the use of nuclear weapons, which have become more frequent on Russian television, should be interpreted primarily as an attempt to “scare” Ukraine and the West, says political scientist Abbas Gallyamov.
“According to the Kremlin’s plan, they must make sure that Russia is” determined “and agree to at least part of the conditions set by Putin,” he explained to the BBC.
Galliamov admitted that threats could be directed at the domestic consumer. In this case, according to the political scientist, their goal is to prepare the Russians for the fact that Russia will not be able to achieve its goals in Ukraine: “The authorities are preparing the Russians for victory. don’t worry too much about not being able to win. “
Speaking about the possible use of nuclear weapons, Russian propagandists are trying to increase the degree of aggressive rhetoric, but not by discussing hostilities in Ukraine, but by abstract topics, said Peter Topychkanov, an associate senior researcher at the Stockholm Institute for Peace Studies (SIPRI).
“In this context, commentators, journalists and politicians feel free to brandish nuclear weapons, because here, on the one hand, they are not violating Russian laws in any way, and on the other hand, they are showing viewers that Russia can go to victory – “We are not behind the price.” And third, they support this high degree of aggression and ferocity, which is necessary – I do not know for what purpose – Russian television, “- said Topychkanov BBC.
Political scientist Yevgeny Roschin also believes that the purpose of discussing a possible nuclear strike on Russian television is to “maintain a certain degree of emotional warm-up of the audience of both supporters and opponents of the” special operation “.
“For some, it helps to mobilize, rally around the leader and simply not lose interest in what is happening. .
“And if we assume that the propagandists manage to create such an atmosphere,” he continued.
According to the text of Russia’s nuclear doctrine, Russia now has no reason to resort to nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Topychkanov said. “At the same time, the start of hostilities in Ukraine and the deterioration of Russia’s relations with Western countries create the preconditions for the growing nuclear threat,” he said.
At the same time, according to Roschin, the very fact of discussing the use of nuclear weapons indicates the degree of madness that has covered the Russian propaganda media, but, in his opinion, “both state propaganda and those who set limits to what is possible in discussions” understand all real the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.
“First, the use of even tactical nuclear weapons can quickly lead to an escalation that inevitably brings the end of the world. For us, for sure. Second, the use of nuclear weapons involves the destruction of both the innocent population of Ukraine and, quite, probably the population of the nearest regions of Russia, where the winds will bring a radioactive cloud.
Third, for many Russians who are skeptical today, the use of such horrific weapons against ordinary people in the neighboring country could be a turning point in assessing the nature of Russia’s political regime. If many Russians now take the position of denial, the use of nuclear weapons will be a sobering shock for many, “Roschin described the consequences.
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