Nuclear Threats, Mountain of Lies Illustrate His Despicable Behavior

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told a mountain of lies to justify his unilateral invasion of Ukraine and has revealed his intention even to suspend Moscow’s participation in a nuclear disarmament treaty to intimidate Western nations. Putin’s statements are despicable.

Just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reaches one year, Putin delivered his annual state of the nation address to the Russian people, in which he laid out his policy directions.

Putin claimed, “[The West] were the ones who started this war, while we used force and are using it to stop the war.” But the facts are completely the opposite. If he believes so, he is delusional to the extreme.

It is Russia that has continued its aggression by sending in large numbers of troops from the border region with Ukraine and attacking the capital city of Kyiv and the entire country.

At the time, Russia was not in danger of being attacked by Western nations. Putin ignored the international community’s calls for restraint and warnings, pushing ahead with the invasion and trampling on the U.N. Charter, which stipulates respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russia has been forced to confront a tough battle in the face of the defiance of the Ukrainian military and the solidarity of Western nations.

With no tangible results to show off in his speech at this critical juncture, Putin replaced the invasion with a “war against the West.” He probably believes that he cannot maintain public support for the invasion without fanning the flames of patriotism. This is self-centered logic that will not work outside Russia.

In his speech, Putin also expressed his intention to suspend Moscow’s participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a framework for nuclear disarmament between the United States and Russia, again making a nuclear threat.

In the first place, Moscow had refused to resume mutual inspections and working-level talks between the two countries, which had been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Washington had pointed out that Russia was in violation of the treaty. Moscow appears to be simply trying to brush under the rug the current situation, in which it continues to violate the treaty under the excuse of Washington taking a hard-line stance toward Russia.

New START sets limits on the means of delivery and the number of warheads for strategic nuclear weapons. On-site inspections and working-level talks have played a role in fostering trust between the two nations regarding arms control and preventing unforeseen conflicts.

If New START, the only remaining nuclear disarmament treaty between the United States and Russia, were to collapse, it could lead to an unstoppable nuclear arms race, and the global nuclear disarmament regime would suffer a major blow.

Putin may consider using the suspension of Moscow’s participation in the nuclear disarmament treaty as a bargaining chip to make Washington hesitate to provide support to Kyiv, putting an emphasis on Russia’s nuclear forces in response to the damage to the Russian military’s conventional forces in Ukraine. But his dangerous threats have crossed a line.

The United States and Russia have been engaged in dialogue and building frameworks to prevent a nuclear war since the Cold War era. Putin should be aware of the gravity of such efforts and exercise restraint.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2023)