In a dramatic escalation of East-West tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on alert Sunday in response to what he called “aggressive statements” by leading NATO powers.
The move means Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch, raising the threat that the tensions could boil over into a nuclear war. In giving it, the Russian leader also cited hard-hitting financial sanctions imposed by the West against Russia, including Putin himself.
Amid the worrying development, the office of Ukraine’s president said a delegation would meet with Russian officials as Moscow’s troops drew closer to Kyiv.
Putin, in giving the nuclear alert directive, cited not only the alleged statements by NATO members but the hard-hitting financial sanctions imposed by the West against Russia, including the Russian leader himself.
Speaking at a meeting with his top officials, Putin told his defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”
“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.
Putin threatened in the days before Russia’s invasion to retaliate harshly against any nations that intervened directly in the conflict in Ukraine, and he specifically raised the specter of his country’s status as a nuclear power.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield denounced the move as a “totally unacceptable” escalation, telling “Face the Nation” on Sunday morning that the U.S. will “continue here at the United Nations and around the world to use every possible lever we have at our disposal to expose his actions.”
“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 strongest possible way,” Thomas-Greenfield said.