Vladimir Putin may be ready to risk another world war, Nikita Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter has warned after the Russian leader gave a ranting speech against the West in which he joked about the prospect of nuclear Armageddon.
Nina Khrushcheva, who is also a professor of international relations at New York’s The New School, said Putin’s ‘grandiose rhetoric’ about a ‘new world order’ and ‘decade of revolution’ suggests he is contemplating a global confrontation.
Khrushcheva, who is currently in Russia, also warned that Russians are stockpiling radiation pills and ‘preparing for something disastrous’ because nobody knowns what Putin might do next.
Underlining that point last night in Moscow, Putin was asked to reassure an audience at the Valdai Discussion Club that the world is not on the verge of nuclear annihilation – and chose to respond with a long pause.
When host Fyodor Lukyanov pointed out that his silence was ‘alarming’, a smirking Putin responded: ‘I did that on purpose so you would be on your guard. The effect has been achieved.’
Vladimir Putin last night joked about the prospect of nuclear annihilation while warning the world is at its most dangerous point since the Second World War
A Russian nuclear missile is fired during testing drills earlier this week, which propagandists said were a rehearsal for destroying the UK and US
Putin’s used his annual speech to the Valdai Club to lay out his foreign policy agenda, proclaiming that Western world order is crumbling and that the time has come to establish a ‘multipolar world order’ in which Moscow gets a bigger say.
Blaming western leaders for fanning the flames of war in Ukraine and Taiwan, Putin also accused them of sparking an energy crisis and strangling global food markets – all things that has has been criticised for.
Putin also spoke at length about nuclear weapons, having threatened the West several times with an atomic strike – sparking fears he may also use one in Ukraine.
The Russian despot denied he has any plans to use one on his neighbour, saying there is ‘no political or military justification’ for doing so.
But he also referred back to Russia’s nuclear doctrine which allows them to be used in the event the country is threatened which – at least according to the Kremlin – now includes occupied parts of Ukraine.
At one point, host Lukyanov pointed out that Friday is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis – which was resolved when Nikita Khrushchev chose to withdraw Soviet nukes from Cuba.
Putin was asked whether he could imagine taking Khrushchev’s position if the crisis were to repeat itself, and replied: ‘No way.’
Asked to clarify whether that means there will be no nuclear standoff, or whether he would have refused to back down, Putin responded only: ‘I cannot imagine myself in the role of Khrushchev.’
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Nina Khrushcheva said Putin ‘clearly doesn’t think in the same terms’ as her great-grandfather.
Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar in the front line near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine,
A Russian fighter jet flies over the wreck of a burning train somewhere on the eastern front near the city of Donetsk after it was hit by shelling
Ukrainian soldiers prepare a mortar to fire in the front line near Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battle against the Russian troops in the Donetsk region
‘When Khrushchev was ousted one of the allegations was he took rockets away from Cuban and after that the Soviet Union looked weak.
‘Khrushchev said: ‘What, I was supposed to start a world war?’
‘Putin clearly doesn’t think in those terms. He thinks ‘it is our way’ and the way I decide it is going to be and we’re not going to back off.
‘I’m not going to put words in his mouth – he didn’t say ‘otherwise it will be a world war’ – but it does seem… that he may be ready to have a war instead of adjusting his political behaviour.’
Questioned about the current atmosphere in Russia, where she is working, Khrushcheva said there is a ‘palpable’ sense of paranoia about what Putin will do.
‘Society is getting more desperate,’ she said. ‘It is frozen in despair – not even fear, despair – we don’t know what is going to happen [or] what tomorrow brings.
‘The last month of nuclear conversation… there is a story [that sales of radiation pills] went up 70 per cent. People are preparing for something disastrous.’
Fears of nuclear escalation have been building as the war in Ukraine grinds into its ninth month with Kyiv on the front foot and Putin nowhere near achieving his aims.
Though the official purpose of the invasion remains the ‘liberation’ of the eastern Donbas region, according to Vladimir, in reality his troops have stopped advancing almost everywhere save the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk.
Ukrainian servicemen shoot from the seized Russian T-80 tank on a road near the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk
Russian nuclear-powered submarine ‘Tula’ preparing to launch a ‘Sineva’ ballistic missile to Kura Test Range during training drills
Meanwhile they are being pushed back in the northern Kharkiv region and southern region of Kherson – the latter of which Putin has declared to be part of Russia.
That has sparked fears he could resort to nukes, after he said he would use ‘all available means’ to defend the territory.
Meanwhile Moscow has been alleging that Ukraine is preparing to detonate a so-called ‘dirty bomb’ on its territory, meaning a conventional explosive laced with radioactive material to cause contamination.
The UN’s atomic watchdog has now been dispatched to two areas of Ukraine where Putin alleges the bomb is being prepared – at Kyiv’s insistence – as President Zelensky and his allies dismiss the claims as fiction.
Instead, they say Russia may be preparing the ground to use one of its own nukes as a pre-text for escalating the conflict.
Joe Biden, asked about Putin’s assertion he would never use nukes in Ukraine, responded last night: ‘Why does he keep talking about it?
Why is he talking about the ability to use a tactical nuclear weapon? He’s been very dangerous in how he’s approached this and he should just get out.
‘He can end this all, get out of Ukraine.’