Vladimir Putin said Russia may shift its nuclear policy to a first strike strategy rather than a defensive one as his war in Ukraine drags on and the West’s concerns about Russia’s ties with Iran grow.
The Russian president made the comment during a summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Friday, where he said he was considering a preemptive strike policy — a strategy he credited to the U.S..
“Speaking about a disarming strike, maybe it’s worth thinking about adopting the ideas developed by our U.S. counterparts, their ideas of ensuring their security,” the Russian strongman said.
Putin went on to say that Russia has already commissioned hypersonic weapons, which the U.S. has thus far not deployed, and now has cruise missiles superior to the American arsenal.
Hypersonic missiles are capable of traveling at 3,800 mph — over five times faster than the speed of sound — and can travel on complex trajectories, making them difficult to defend against.
“If the potential adversary believes that it can use the theory of a preemptive strike and we don’t, it makes us think about the threats posed by such ideas in other countries’ defensive posture,” Putin said.
Western intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Russia could tap into Iran’s arsenal of hypersonic and ballistic missiles amid a deepening alliance, as it depletes its own stores in Ukraine. “Iran’s support to the Russian military is likely to grow in the coming months: Russia is attempting to obtain more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles,” the UK Ministry of Defense said in its daily update Saturday.
Putin’s comments came days after he warned of the “increasing” threat of nuclear war and discussed what he perceived as problems with a defense-first strategy.
“As for the idea that Russia wouldn’t use such weapons first under any circumstances, then it means we wouldn’t be able to be the second to use them either — because the possibility to do so in case of an attack on our territory would be very limited,” Putin said.
Russia’s doctrine currently says that the country can use nuclear weapons if it is targeted by a nuclear strike or an attack by any other weapon that threatens “the very existence” of the country.
However, Putin has repeatedly said that he is prepared to use “all available means” to protect Russian territory since sending troops to Ukraine in February.
The latest comments came while Russian missiles continued to bombard a string of towns and cities in Eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which make up a region called the Donbas that Putin has claimed as part of Russia.
Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskey said the situation “remains very difficult” in several of the frontline cities.
“Bakhmut, Soledar, Maryinka, Kreminna. For a long time, there is no living place left on the land of these areas that have not been damaged by shells and fire,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address posted on social media. “The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut, another Donbas city that the Russian army turned into burnt ruins.”