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Putin’s Nuclear Threats In His Own Words


Update 10/25/2022: I’ve added an April 20 quote at the suggestion of François Heisbourg and September 30 from Gene Dannen. Thanks to both.

As we try to decipher Sergey Shoigu’s phonecalls to the Defense Ministers of the US, UK, and France, I decided to look at the threats Vladimir Putin has made since February 24. I combed through all his speeches on the President of Russia website, and this is what I found. Let me know if I’ve missed something. I have left out threats by others like Dmitri Medvedev and the Russian tv brigade.

I’ve included context with each quote, and you can link back to the speeches to find further context.

February 24, 2022: Address by the President of the Russian Federation

I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside. No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history. No matter how the events unfold, we are ready. All the necessary decisions in this regard have been taken. I hope that my words will be heard.

February 27, 2022: Meeting with Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov


You see that Western countries are not only taking unfriendly economic actions against our country, I mean the illegitimate sanctions of which everyone is well aware, but top officials of the leading NATO countries are indulging in aggressive statements directed at our country.

Therefore, I order the Defence Minister and Chief of the General Staff to put Russian Army’s deterrence forces on high combat alert.

No signs were detected by the US government or independent organizations of mobilization of Russian nuclear forces.

On March 5, Putin kinda sorta takes back his “high combat alert” but lays a predicate for later WMD use.

March 5, 2022: Meeting with female aircrew members of Russian airlines

Now they [Ukraine] are talking about gaining a nuclear status, that is, acquiring nuclear weapons. We cannot ignore such things either, especially because we know how the so-called West acts with regard to Russia. First, Ukraine has had nuclear competencies since the Soviet times. As far as enrichment and nuclear materials are concerned, they are capable of launching such projects. They have missile competencies. Suffice it to mention Yuzhmash – it created intercontinental ballistic missile equipment for the Soviet Union. They can boost it and do it. And they will also receive help with that from across the ocean. And then they will say that we do not recognise their nuclear status, that they did it themselves, and they will put these systems under control, and from that moment, from that very second, Russia’s future will change dramatically. From then on, our strategic adversaries would not even need to have intercontinental ballistic missiles. They would be able to keep us at the nuclear gunpoint, and that would be it.

But how can we let this go unnoticed? These are absolutely real threats, not some far-fetched nonsense. And our young men who are fighting there now are giving their lives, they are giving their lives to fight for our future, for the future of our children. This is a completely obvious thing.


I think that our so-called partners understand what this can lead to and how much is at stake, despite their reckless statements, for example, like the statement made by the UK Foreign Secretary, when she blurted out that NATO could get involved in the conflict. And we immediately had to take a decision to put our deterrence forces on high alert.


We are not planning to declare a state of alert on the territory of the Russian Federation. There are no such plans and no necessity for this now.

More predicate-laying on March 16. The accusations of biological weapon development by Ukraine were seen as a possible warning of an attack with such weapons by Russia, but no such attack occurred. This is something to consider with recent Russian warnings of dirty bombs.

March 16, 2022: Meeting on socioeconomic support for regions

They also started to implement plans to join NATO. Moreover, the Kiev authorities also announced their intention to have nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles. This was a real threat. With foreign technical support, the pro-Nazi Kiev regime would have obtained weapons of mass destruction in the foreseeable future and, of course, would have targeted them against Russia.

There was a network of dozens of laboratories in Ukraine, where military biological programmes were conducted under the guidance and with the financial support of the Pentagon, including experiments with coronavirus strains, anthrax, cholera, African swine fever and other deadly diseases. Frantic attempts are being made to conceal traces of these secret programmes. However, we have grounds to assume that components of biological weapons were being created in direct proximity to Russia on the territory of Ukraine.

April 20, 2022: Test launch of Sarmat ICBM

My congratulations to you on the successful launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile. This is a big, momentous event in the development of advanced weapons systems for the Russian Army. The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence. It has no analogues in the world and will not have any for a long time to come.

This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our Armed Forces, reliably ensuring Russia’s security against external threats, and will be a wakeup call for those who are trying to threaten our country in the frenzy of rabid, aggressive rhetoric.

April and May  were mostly focused on economic issues and a CSTO meeting. The next Putin statement that could be taken as a threat came on June 17.

June 17, 2022: St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Plenary Session

Margarita Simonyan: Both in Moscow and beyond, and even more so in the West, people are increasingly saying, just pronouncing the words ‘nuclear war’, ‘World War Three’. We understand that this is not the first, not the second, not the third special operation, that it is not ours, but in general is going on in the world over the past few years. Our so-called partners are carrying out special operations and waging wars wherever they want, for any reason and without one. No one has ever said that the situation in Libya or somewhere else, in Afghanistan, in Syria, could lead to World War III. But they are talking about it now.

Do you think this rhetoric is acceptable? Does it have any grounds or is it just talk – the louder, the better to be heard?

Vladimir Putin: Of course, we can hear such rhetoric. Where does it come from? It comes from their own statements. One irresponsible politician blurts out something, and another one follows suit at a very high level. For example, top foreign ministry officials talk profusely on this subject.

Are we going to keep silent? We reply accordingly. Following our reply, they start finding fault with us and saying that Russia is making threats.

We are not threatening anyone. However, everyone should know what resources we have, and what we will use, if need be, to defend our sovereignty. This is an obvious thing.

What special operations are you talking about? They unleashed full-scale wars there.

Margarita Simonyan: Of course.

Vladimir Putin: They virtually destroyed Iraq. They came …

Margarita Simonyan: And what about Libya?

Vladimir Putin: Libya has still not been able to restore its statehood. How many years did they fight in Afghanistan?

[Much more about Iraq etc]

[In response to a question about Donetsk]  With regard to the red lines, let me keep this to myself, because on our part it will include fairly tough actions targeted at the decision-making centres that you and I mentioned. Still, the country’s military-political leadership should be in the lead on making those decisions. The individuals who deserve actions of that level coming their way from us should realise what they may be facing if they cross these lines.

Then the possibility of arming Belarus with nuclear weapons.

June 25, 2022:  Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko

Vladimir Putin: As to security issues, indeed, the Americans have 200 tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, mostly atomic bombs. Two hundred of them are in six European countries, members of NATO, the North Atlantic bloc. To use these weapons, 257 planes have been prepared – and they are not only US planes but also of those countries I mentioned.

Alexander Lukashenko: Outside the United States.

Vladimir Putin: Outside the United States, in Europe.

Alexander Lukashenko: Meanwhile, Russia does not have a single base of this kind.

Vladimir Putin: Russia has none.

You said we could reciprocate. We could, but you and we probably should not respond – there is not need.

However, I totally agree with you that we must take care of our unconditional security, the security of the Union State and maybe even that of the other CSTO member countries.

Therefore, I suggest the following. The Belarusian Army has a fairly big number of Su-25 planes. They can be respectively re-equipped.

Alexander Lukashenko: Su-25 planes?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, Su-25. They could have additional equipment installed. This upgrade must be done at aviation plants in Russia but we will decide how to do that. And to begin training of aircrews. This is number one.

And second. As we had agreed on the issue you raised, a decision was made in our country: within the next several months, we will transfer to Belarus the Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which are known to use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both conventional and nuclear.

I suggest we issue instructions to our defence ministries and chiefs of general staffs to work out all the details concerning these joint efforts.

Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, I completely agree.

Vladimir Putin: Settled, then.

Once again, in his speech announcing partial mobilization on September 21, he accuses others of what Russia is probably doing. It’s not clear who is shelling the ZNPP, but I would be willing to put money on its being Russia.

September 21, 2022: Address by the President of the Russian Federation

They have even resorted to the nuclear blackmail. I am referring not only to the Western-encouraged shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which poses a threat of a nuclear disaster, but also to the statements made by some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO countries on the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons – against Russia.

I would like to remind those who make such statements regarding Russia that our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have. In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.

September 30, 2022: Signing of treaties on accession of Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and Zaporozhye and Kherson regions to Russia

The United States is the only country in the world that has used nuclear weapons twice, destroying the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. And they created a precedent.

Thanks to Alex Wellerstein for suggesting that someone collect these threats.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

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