Russia hasn’t ruled out the use of nuclear weapons as a way to defend itself amid the ongoing war in Ukraine which began last February.
Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, said in a news briefing on Thursday that Russia could possibly use nuclear weapons in certain dire situations.
“Russia’s nuclear deterrence policy is strictly defensive. The hypothetical use of nuclear weapons is clearly limited by extraordinary circumstances within the framework of strictly defensive purposes,” she said, according to Russian news agency Tass.
Zakharova continued: “There can be no winners in it. It must never be unleashed. We consistently call on all other parties to the joint statement of the leaders of the five nuclear states on the prevention of nuclear war and the inadmissibility of an arms race to adhere to these postulates.
The use of nuclear weapons has been repeatedly discussed on Russian state TV, but some experts expressed doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would actually use them and questioned the strategic gain of doing so.
The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson also hinted that her country could reverse its decision to suspend its participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which was a 10-year agreement that Russia and the U.S. began in 2010 for nuclear arms control.
Under the agreement, both countries are not allowed to deploy more than 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons. The deal was renewed for five years in 2021, but Russian President Vladimir Putin told lawmakers in February that Moscow would temporarily suspend its role in the agreement but will not withdraw altogether. Putin later signed a law on March 1 suspending Moscow’s role in the New Start, according to Tass.
“In this case, yes, only if Washington shows the political will and exerts efforts to ease tensions and de-escalate and create conditions for the resumption of the full functioning of the treaty,” Zakharova said on Thursday, according to the Russian news agency.
The warning about the use of nuclear weapons comes as Russian continues to fight Ukraine, which has recently reportedly begun its long-awaited counteroffensive in an effort to take back its territories. The war between Russian and Ukrainian troops extended throughout major cities in Ukraine, including Kyiv, Odesa, Kherson, and Bakhmut. There is still no end to the war in sight, but Western nations, including the United States, continue to supply Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid to help the war-torn country sustain and defend itself.