- A former NATO commander said he’s not losing “a lot of sleep” over Putin’s nuclear threats.
- James Stavridis said using such action would “create a huge movement away from” Putin around the world.
- Putin threatened nuclear force as he announced a partial military mobilization this week.
Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO, told MSNBC on Friday that he’s not particularly concerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats.
“I don’t see Putin deciding to use a nuclear weapon,” Stavridis said. “Bottom line: Putin is upping the ante,” he added, “but I think the storm clouds are rising for Vladimir Putin.”
As Putin announced plans for partial military mobilization earlier this week, taking immediate steps to begin calling up 300,000 reservists, the Russian leader threatened the use of nuclear force in the event of a “threat” to Russia’s “territorial integrity.”
“We will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff,” Putin said.
His recent remarks were not the first time since he launched his war in Ukraine that Putin has issued a warning pertaining to Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which is the largest in the world. The US has repeatedly accused Putin of nuclear saber rattling.
“President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe, in a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime,” President Joe Biden said of his Russian counterpart during a speech at the UN General Assembly this week..
“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Biden said, decrying Russia for “making irresponsible nuclear threats.”
Western officials and Russia watchers have repeatedly warned that Putin could decide to use a nuclear weapon if he feels backed into a corner in Ukraine, with some worrying that the likelihood of such a scenario has increased given Ukraine’s recent capture of a significant chunk of territory previously held by the Russian army as part of a counteroffensive. The US has for months privately warned Russia there would be serious consequences if it employs a nuclear weapon, according to a Washington Post report.
But Stavridis said he’s not losing “a lot of sleep” over Putin’s nuclear rhetoric.
The former NATO commander said the use of a nuclear weapon by the Russian leader would “create a huge movement away from him — dramatically — in world opinion.”
In an op-ed for Bloomberg published this week, Stavridis said the “nuclear threat is a repetition of Putin’s bluster from months ago.”
“He is highly unlikely to use even a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon given the obvious threat of starting World War III and also the immense damage it would do in his efforts to keep Brazil, India, Nigeria, South Africa and other large nonaligned countries in neutrality,” Stavridis wrote.
Stavridis also said that Putin’s military mobilization and nuclear threats were moves that “smack of desperation,” a point many other expert observers have also argued.
Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO, expressed similar views in comments to Insider on Wednesday.
Putin is “acknowledging that the ‘special military operation’ isn’t going well,” Daalder said, adding that “any mobilization — partial or whole— seven months into a war means you’re losing, not winning.”
And in reference to Putin’s nuclear threat, Daalder asserted that “anyone who finds it necessary to say that he’s not bluffing most likely is.”