Unstable Putin seems to threaten nuclear attack if West retaliates on Ukraine

Boris Johnson says the UK will respond to Russia’s attack on Ukraine with “a massive package of sanctions” that will “hobble the Russian economy”.

But in a chilling speech, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin warned that any military intervention by the NATO powers would provoke a massive response “never seen in history”.

While the Russian president didn’t spell out a threat of a nuclear response, military analysts agree that the message was clear.

In an early morning televised address, Putin said: "Whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history."

“All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.”

He added: "No one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor."

Reacting to Putin’s words, three noted authorities on Russian affairs came to similar conclusions.

Buzzfeed’s Russia expert Miriam Elder posted on Twitter: “Many awful things in Putin’s early morning address just now but this stood out, sounded like a tacit threat of nuclear war.”

Arkady Ostrovsky, author of the Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War, added: "Putin implicitly threatens any outside power wishing to interfere with nuclear strike."

While Professor Sam Greene, a politics professor at King's College London who has written a book on Putin’s rise to power simply asked: “Is he threatening nuclear war?”

Kremlin expert Dmitry Gudkov is one of many Russia observers who have questioned whether the "increasingly isolated" Putin is still mentally fit to lead, saying “a good psychiatrist is needed" to investigate the Russian leader's mental health.

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So far, the Western powers seem to be concentrating on economic sanctions rather than military action.

US President Joe Biden has said that NATO would respond to the attack on Ukraine in a “united and decisive way” while United Nations Secretary General Secretary-General António Guterres has simply pleaded for the Russian leader to “give peace a chance”.

However, Boris Johnson has already warned that UK forces could soon become involved, saying: "Our mission is clear – diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure."

Russia is believed to have the world’s single biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons, with over 500 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) ready to launch at any time, as well as submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and a fleet of nuclear-capable strategic bombers.

Putin has also claimed – possibly as a pretext for his attack – that Ukraine is developing a nuclear strike capability of its own, saying “Ukraine certainly has Soviet nuclear technologies and delivery systems for such weapons, including aviation and Tochka-U tactical missiles, developed back in the Soviet period."

"Their range is over 100 km, but they will develop even longer-range ones, it is only a matter of time," he predicted, adding "there is groundwork from the Soviet era”.

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