In what was described as a rare address to his nation on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the start of a partial conscription of forces to bolster his prospects in the ongoing war in Ukraine, while also making very thinly-veiled threats about using nuclear weapons to achieve the outcome he desires, as NBC News reports.
According to Reuters, Putin's conscription measures represent the most sizable action of the sort since World War II and are designed to compel the mobilization of roughly 300,000 reservists for the fight in Ukraine, which has been characterized by numerous surprising setbacks for the Russian side in recent weeks.
During his remarks, Putin reiterated his assertion that the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year was initiated out of defensive motivations, namely, to protect what he labeled “Russia's Crimea” and also the Donbas region from aggressive overtures on the part of Kyiv.
The Russian president also stated that his country's concerns over control of those regions were the subject of optimism and possible compromise during peace talks with Ukraine at earlier stages of the current conflict, but he argued that hope for an agreement was scuttled by Western leaders he says spurred Ukraine to continue the fight.
Lashing out at what he views as wholly unjustified outside intervention, Putin said, “In its aggressive anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed every line. In Washington, London, Brussels, they are directly pushing Kyiv to transfer military operations to our territory. No longer hiding, they say that Russia should be defeated by all means on the battlefield, followed by the deprivation of political, economic, cultural, in general, any sovereignty, with the complete plunder of our country.”
Perhaps in response to recent remarks from President Joe Biden about the potential severity of a U.S. response should Russia use chemical or nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Putin went on to blast the West for engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and stating that he would have no qualms about defending his nation's interest, even if that meant deploying his own nuclear capabilities.
“I would like to remind those who make such statements regarding Russia that our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have,” Putin suggested menacingly.
Prior to cautioning Western leaders that his words were “not a bluff,” Putin pledged, “In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us.”
Whether Putin's saber-rattling regarding the use of nuclear weapons should be any more worrisome now than when it emerged back in February, remains to be seen, but as strategic studies professor Phillips O'Brien opined to NBC News, in all likelihood, it merely “signals what he wants people to think he would risk nuclear war. I don't think it means he is any more likely to do it than he was yesterday.”