Putin Says West Risks Nuclear Conflict if It Intervenes More in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin of Russia delivered a speech warning the West of the possibility of nuclear conflict if intervention in the Ukraine war escalates. He mentioned that Russia possesses weapons that can strike targets on their territory, and questioned whether the West understands this. Putin's comments were in response to President Emmanuel Macron of France suggesting the potential deployment of Western troops to Ukraine, a move that the Kremlin said would result in direct conflict between Russia and the Western alliance. Putin also expressed his readiness to resume arms-control negotiations with the United States, but under the condition that the war in Ukraine is a part of the discussion.


Russia’s War Calculus

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said the West faced the prospect of nuclear conflict if it intervened more directly in the war in Ukraine, using an annual speech to the nation on Thursday to escalate his threats against Europe and the United States.

Mr. Putin said NATO countries that were helping Ukraine strike Russian territory or might consider sending their own troops “must, in the end, understand” that “all this truly threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons, and therefore the destruction of civilization.”

“We also have weapons that can strike targets on their territory,” Mr. Putin said. “Do they not understand this?”

Waiting for Serhiy’s Release

The Russian leader alluded to comments by President Emmanuel Macron of France this week raising the possibility of sending troops from NATO countries to Ukraine, a scenario the Kremlin said would lead to the “inevitability” of a direct conflict between Russia and the Western alliance.

The United States and other Western governments have largely tried to distance themselves from Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, and Mr. Macron’s remarks about the possibility of Western troops being sent to Ukraine drew quick rebukes from other Western officials, who have ruled out such deployments.

Mr. Putin, however, considers Russian-occupied Ukraine to be Russian territory, and he seized on Mr. Macron’s remarks to amplify his threat. “We remember the fate of those who once sent their contingents to the territory of our country,” Mr. Putin said, an apparent reference to the invasions of Hitler and Napoleon. “But now the consequences for potential interventionists will be much more tragic.”

Russia’s Political System and Security

At home, Mr. Putin is showing no sign of slowing his crackdown on the opposition, which suffered a crushing blow with the death of its imprisoned leader, Aleksei A. Navalny.

“Russia’s political system is one of the foundations of the country’s sovereignty,” Mr. Putin said in his speech, suggesting he would continue to stifle what he casts as Western-organized dissent. “We will not let anyone interfere in our domestic affairs.”

Mr. Putin has repeatedly made veiled nuclear threats against the West since he launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, seeking to leverage Russia’s enormous nuclear arsenal to deter Europe and the United States from supporting Ukraine.