Russia Finally Rules Out Using Nuclear Weapons Over Ukraine War

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said Russia is not considering turning to nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine, and reiterated Moscow's stance that the use of such capabilities would only follow a "threat for existence."

Peskov told PBS "no one is thinking about [...] using a nuclear weapon," and that the Ukrainian conflict has "nothing to do with" any threat to Russia's existence. The comments come a week after on CNN he repeatedly refused to rule out that Russia would consider nuclear force against an "existential threat."

In the PBS interview on Monday, Peskov had been asked to clarify comments from former President Dmitry Medvedev, who has listed scenarios in which Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if it faced an existential threat.

Russia has around 6,000 nuclear warheads and Medvedev said Russia's nuclear doctrine did not require an adversary to use such weapons first.

Medvedev's words follow a nuclear warning by President Vladimir Putin that his nuclear forces had been put on "high alert" following the invasion he ordered on 24 February. Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia's "nuclear sabre-rattling."

Peskov said "we have no doubt" Russia would achieve "all the objectives of our special military operation in Ukraine'' referring to the official Russian description of the war, "but any outcome of the operation, of course, is not a reason for usage of a nuclear weapon."

"We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state in our country," Peskov said, "we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat or the existence of our country."

"Let's keep these two things separate," Peskov said, "I mean, existence of the state and special military operation in Ukraine, they have nothing to do with each other."

Peskov said Putin's comments about Russia's nuclear capabilities was a "warning different states not to interfere in the affairs between Ukraine and Russia."

When interviewer Ryan Chilcote said Putin's comments suggested Russia would turn to nuclear weapons if a third party got involved, Peskov replied, "No, I don't think so, but he was quite bold in saying that, do not interfere."

"If you do that, we will have all the possibilities to prevent that and to punish all those who are going to interfere."

When Chilcote called on Peskov to rule out nuclear weapon use given that it the war in Ukraine would ever threaten the existence of Russia, the Kremlin spokesman said, "no one is thinking about using, even about the idea of using a nuclear weapon."

When asked about President Joe Biden's warning to Putin against "going on one single inch of NATO territory," and whether Russia would look at sending forces into an alliance member, Peskov said, "If it is not a reciprocal act, so if they don't make us do that, we cannot think about that."

The Kremlin spokesman also described as "quite alarming" Biden's description of Putin as a "butcher" and that it was "impossible" for him to remain in power—which prompted an insistence from the White House that he was not calling for regime change.

However, on Monday Biden said he would not apologize for saying Putin "cannot remain in power." At a press briefing, Biden said although he is "not walking anything back" in terms of what he said, the statement reflects a personal belief, not a policy change.

The Kremlin spokesman added: "First of all, it is [a] personal insult. And one can hardly imagine a place for personal insult in rhetorics [sic] of a political leader," he said, "so, we're really sorry about that.

"And his statement involves whether Putin should not or should be in power in Russia. Of course, it is completely unacceptable. It is not for the United States' president to decide who is going to be and who is the president of the Russian Federation," Peskov said.

Newsweek has contacted the White House and the Kremlin for comment.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov moderates Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual press conference at the Manezh exhibition hall in central Moscow on December 23, 2021. Peskov has told PBS that no one in Russia is considering using nuclear weapons. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/Getty Images