Russian State TV Argues Over Using Nuclear War to Threaten U.S.

A group of Russian officials who appeared on state television held an intense discussion on how best to show the U.S. the full extent of the threat Russia poses to its national security.

The group, identified as a military expert, multiple political scientists and a member of the State Duma, argued over whether Russia should threaten the U.S. with nuclear war or by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, among other suggestions.

Julia Davis, a reporter with The Daily Beast, shared a clip of the exchange with English captions on Twitter on Tuesday. Newsweek was unable to confirm whether the state television discussion also took place on Tuesday.

Since Ukraine was invaded in late February, the U.S. has drawn Russia's ire over aid, including weapons, to Ukraine and packages of unprecedented sanctions against Russia. The full context surrounding the state television discussion was not immediately clear, but the clip began with a man, identified as military expert Alexei Leokov, saying that "Russia should get used to becoming an empire.

"Since we're an empire, we should act like an empire," he said.

Andrey Gurulyov, a member of the State Duma, then chimed in to suggest that weapons, presumably Russia's, should "pose a threat, first and foremost, to the territory of the United States of America, and not only nuclear weapons."

"They should understand there could be a strike against Miami, Texas or any other state," Gurulyov said. "Then, they'll tuck their tail in. They aren't very brave over there. This is our truth and what we should aspire to and confidently move toward that."

Vladimir Putin
A group of Russian officials who appeared on state television held an intense discussion on how best to show the U.S. the full extent of the threat Russia poses to its national security. Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the State Awarding Ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace on June 12, 2022, in Moscow. Getty

Dmitry Drobnitsky, who was identified as a political scientist, then suggested that U.S. elites "for the most part" don't feel very vulnerable, and that they don't believe Russia would strike.

"There is only one way to convince them, which would be to launch a Sarmat [missile]," he said. "I understand the desire of many to go to heaven, but I'm in no rush to go there."

Another man floated the idea that Russia could "place something serious" in Nicaragua, but Drobnitsky interjected to say that "there is not one in Latin America" that Russia can rely on apart from "Cubans and Chileans." Drobnitsky added that they should stop talking about Latin America and said that any moves involving the region were "just fantasies."

Another man who had not spoken yet in the clip—neither his name nor position were specified—said that some say a Sarmat missile "works well against sanctions."

"It's an important argument, but I agree that no one believes it would be used. And why not?" the man asked.

Dmitry Abzalov, another political scientist, responded that "they're convincing everyone that the Russians wouldn't move on that," in a seeming reference to U.S. officials.

Another member of the group said that the Russians "would" do so with no problem. Another said that the U.S. officials "don't understand anything about Putin." Due to crosstalk and the pace of the conversation, it was not immediately clear who in the group made both of the statements.

The same unidentified man who made the comment about the Sarmat missile and sanctions said that if Russia was moving toward a confrontation with the U.S., it needs to understand how long the "operation" in Ukraine would last.

"Many things could be solved economically, but some issues fundamentally change everything," he added.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Defense Department for comment.