A senior advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Kremlin could not rule out using its nuclear arsenal if it felt its existence was being threatened.
Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against what it saw as an “existential threat,” Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said in a March 22 interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“We have a concept of domestic security, and it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” Peskov responded as Amanpour pushed him on whether he was “convinced or confident” that Putin would not use the nuclear option in the Ukrainian context.
“So, if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept,” Peskov said.
Russia has 6,257 nuclear warheads, while the U.S. admits to having 5,550, according to a January fact sheet released by the Arms Control Association. Both countries have increased their nuclear warheads since the Cold War ended in 1991.
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“No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history,” Putin said in a televised statement in February.
Russia invaded Ukraine in late February on the guise that it needed to “get rid of the military potential of Ukraine,” and to ensure Ukraine is a “neutral country,” Peskov told CNN during the interview.
The Kremlin also wants Ukraine to accept that Crimea — annexed by Russia in 2014 — is part of Russia and to accept that the breakaway statelets of Luhansk and Donetsk “are already independent states.”
Peskov also claimed that the “special military operation” invasion in Ukraine was “going on strictly in accordance with plans and the purposes that were established beforehand.”
Photo: Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, May 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file) / Photo: PKREMLL/ istock, https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/KREMLL?mediatype=photography