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Vladimir Putin’s nuclear “doomsday arsenal” could obliterate life on Earth – but the Russian President may not be able to deploy the missiles alone, an expert has claimed.
With the war in Ukraine having dragged on for over three months, the threat of Putin deploying his nuclear missiles has so far prevented NATO forces from intervening directly in the conflict.
Recently, Russian state TV hosts have hurled threats towards the west, with the head of RT Margarita Simonya warning that if the despot isn’t successful in Ukraine, the war will “end badly for humanity”.
Now, speaking to Lex Fridman on his podcast, historian Stephen Kotkin – who is an expert in Russian affairs – has warned that these threats should be taken seriously, but suggested that the choice to use nukes may not rest with Putin alone.
On the podcast, Lex asked his guest whether he was concerned about the possibility of nuclear war following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I think it’s necessary to pay attention to that possibility,” he responded, before observing that the threat of nuclear war existed before the war in Ukraine began.
“The doomsday arsenal that Russia possesses is enough to destroy the world many times over, and that’s been the case every year since the collapse of the soviet union in 1991, so of course we are concerned about that.”
However, Stephen went on to suggest that the decision to launch a nuclear missile may not be taken by Putin alone.
“They’ve got a system known as dual key for their strategic nuclear weapons,” he continued.
“Dual key means that President Putin alone cannot fire them. He has one key that he must insert, he must then insert the codes for a command to launch. That then goes to the head of the general staff who has his own separate key codes and must do the same.
“So, will the general staff chief go along with the destruction of the world over a battlefield loss in Ukraine? I don’t know the answer to that and I don’t know if anybody knows the answer to that."
Stephen also suggested that were Putin to engage the order to use nuclear weapons, decisions will need to be taken by others, for instance the bombers who would be in line to drop the missiles.
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“You can see that there is more than one man making the decision here in a system of strategic nuclear weapons,” he added.
On the battlefield, however, Stephen suggested that smaller nuclear weapons may not have quite as strict an approval system in place.
“We’re not sure the system that they have in Russia these days for their use of such tactical nuclear weapons. It could well be that Putin alone can fire them or order that they be fired,” he suggested.
Were Putin to deploy these small scale nuclear missiles on their neighbours, Stephen acknowledged that it is likely that NATO would intervene directly, therefore sparking World War 3 to break out.
- Vladimir Putin
- Russia Ukraine war
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