- Putin says Russia is fighting for survival
- Putin says the Russian people will not survive
- Putin says the West is trying to destroy Russia
- Russia must take NATO nuclear capability into account
MOSCOW, Feb 26 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin has called the conflict with the West over Ukraine an existential battle for the survival of Russia and the Russian people – and has been forced to take NATO’s nuclear capabilities into account.
A year on from ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin is increasingly presenting the war as a make-or-break moment in Russian history — and he has said he believes the future of Russia and its people is at stake.
“They have one goal: to dissolve the former Soviet Union and its constituent part, the Russian Federation,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in an interview recorded Wednesday but released Sunday.
NATO and the West reject such stories, saying their mission is to help Ukraine defend itself against an unprovoked attack.
Putin said the West wanted to divide Russia and then control the world’s largest producer of raw materials, which he said would lead to the destruction of many of Russia’s people, including its ethnic Russian majority.
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“I don’t even know if an ethnic group like the Russian people can survive in the form it exists today,” Putin said. West’s plans have been put on paper, he said, though not specified where.
The US has denied it wants to destroy Russia, while President Joe Biden has warned that a conflict between Russia and NATO could spark World War III, although he has said Putin should not stay in power.
US and European military aid to Ukraine, worth billions of dollars, shows that Russia is now confronting NATO itself – the Cold War nightmare of Soviet and Western leaders.
Ukraine says it will not rest until every last Russian soldier is expelled from Ukraine, including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Putin’s existential war system allows the 70-year-old Kremlin leader to hold the Russian people in check for a much deeper conflict.
Russia’s official nuclear doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons — or other weapons of mass destruction — if they are used against it, or if conventional weapons are used, which would endanger the “existence of the state.”
Putin has signaled that he is prepared to tear up the framework of nuclear arms control in Ukraine – including the major powers’ ban on nuclear testing – unless the West backs down.
On Tuesday, he sought to underline Russian resolve in Ukraine, suspending a key nuclear arms control treaty, announcing that new strategic systems had been put on combat duty and warning that Moscow could resume nuclear tests.
Putin said Russia would only reopen the discussion if French and British nuclear weapons were also taken into account.
Russia, which inherited the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal, has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. It has more warships than the United States, France and Britain combined Federation of American Scientists.
“In today’s situation, when all the leading NATO countries have announced that their main goal is to inflict strategic defeat on us, and our people are suffering, as they say, how can we ignore their nuclear capabilities in these conditions?” Putin said.
Putin said the biggest result of the past year was the unity of the Russian people.
(Reporting by Reuters, Editing by Guy Falconbridge and Tomasz Janowski).
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