Will Putin use nuclear weapons? Expert delivers verdict as Russia threatens NATO

NATO: Boris Johnson greets Joe Biden at summit

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While NATO is currently not involved in the conflict, the security alliance announced on Thursday it would post 40,000 additional troops to countries that border the aggressor state. NATO has confirmed that four new battlegroups comprised of 40,000 troops in total will be sent to Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

On Thursday, Joe Biden also said NATO has never been more united – something President Putin didn’t expect.

NATO countries have put on a united front against Russia in the conflict so far, with wide-ranging sanctions in place and support being delivered to troops in Ukraine.

But Russia remains undeterred and escalated the stakes earlier this week by threatening use of the weapons if NATO threatened its territory.

Dmitry Polyanskiy, one of Russia’s top diplomats in the United States, said: “If Russia is provoked by NATO, if Russia is attacked by NATO, why not, we are a nuclear power.

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“I don’t think it’s the right thing to be saying. But it’s not the right thing to threaten Russia, and to try to interfere.

“So when you’re dealing with a nuclear power, of course, you have to calculate all the possible outcomes of your behaviour.”

In February, President Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on ‘high alert’.

In response, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on March 14 that “the prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility”.

Will Putin use nuclear weapons?

Henry Wilkinson, Chief Intelligence Officer at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, told Express.co.uk: “Off the battlefield, Putin has already shown he is willing to use brinkmanship to weaken international resolve to maintain pressure on his regime and punish it for mounting an illegal war on Ukraine.

“His public order to escalate Russian nuclear defence posture alongside reports that Belarus may nuclearise was plainly intended to rattle the world and apply pressure on the west, and portray a major threat to Russia to the Russian people.

“This posturing seems to be a direct response to the severe sanctions imposed upon his regime and attempt to reinforce his narrative of a NATO threat to justify his war rather than a genuine nuclear threat at this point, in our assessment.”

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In what scenario would Russia use nuclear weapons?

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said in an interview that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence were threatened.

He said on Tuesday: “We have a concept of domestic security, and it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used.

“So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.”

What nuclear weapons does Russia have?

Russia has access to the largest collection of nuclear warheads in the world.

As of 2022, the Federation of American Scientists estimated that Russia possesses 5,977 nuclear weapons – and this is estimated to be growing.

In comparison, the USA has 5,428.

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