Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert

In reaction to the harsher sanctions against his country, Russia's President Putin has ordered a "special regime of combat duty" for the army's deterrent forces, including nuclear weapons. He justified the step with what he called "aggressive statements" by the West. The US has interpreted the move as a further escalation and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed the seriousness of the situation. Europe's press also voices its concern.

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Gordonua.com (UA) /

Russians, say no to nuclear war!

Russian writer Boris Akunin appeals to his country's army and population in in a Facebook post republished by gordonua.com:

“Dear Russian readers who are not interested in politics (I know there are many of you here), do you realise that with today's order to put Russia's nuclear arsenal on alert Putin has brought the planet to the brink of a world war? I would like to address the military. If you receive such an order, do not carry it out. Do not take responsibility for the disaster. And no, this does not mean that you should be intimidated. It means that it is time for everyone to wake up. One single lunatic could destroy life on Earth.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Driven by fear and frustration

Justifying the decision, Putin cited aggressive reactions by the West. This is a bogus argument, La Stampa comments:

“Since the beginning of the crisis, the US and Nato have stressed that they do not want to intervene militarily in Ukraine. The reason for the Russian president's irresponsible nuclear move must therefore lie elsewhere. Either in the paranoia that seems to have taken hold of him. Or in his frustration and fear of losing this bet in which ultimately his lifetime presidency is at stake. Or in both. After four days of bitter combat, Vladimir Putin has not only not won this war of his making as he had hoped, but has had to experience Zelensky rejecting his intimidating ultimatums.”

Visão (PT) /

Unbearable outlook

Putin is playing with the apocalypse, writes Visão:

“No matter what nuclear weapon is used, whether it's an unthinkable gesture, a tactical move, a theatre of war, or strategic, regardless of where or how it is used, the other side will react immediately. And even if only tactical weapons are used, they can destroy an entire army or a city of millions, and it is almost certain that this would immediately lead to mutually assured destruction. It is better not to think about it. In such a situation, there are no future scenarios.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Worst-case scenario entirely conceivable

Unfortunately, we cannot be entirely certain that a desperate Putin won't go ahead and press the red button, warns Jutarnji list:

“Putin launched the whole operation with a passionate desire to win a historic victory, to prove himself a powerful Russian ruler, the ruler of Europe, of Eurasia even. ... Putin is alone, afraid of his own mortality, of which the pandemic has reminded him, aware of transience. 'After me, the deluge', a crackpot once said. After me, you can clean up the nuclear aftermath, I will go down in history as a name that cannot be forgotten - this could be what's going on in Vlad the Mad's head. And that is why we must proceed with utmost caution right now.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Always on high alert

The opposition paper Novaya Gazeta considers this move by Putin to be nothing but a verbal deterrent:

“In all likelihood, putting the nuclear forces on alert is a preventive measure directed at the Nato countries, a public warning not to intervene in the fighting on behalf of the Ukrainian army. Especially since, according to the strategic weapons specialists we interviewed, the Russian nuclear forces are constantly and uninterruptedly in a state of full operational readiness - without any explanations as to why.”