Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the third World War would be ‘nuclear and destructive’ and claimed Russia would not allow Ukraine to acquire nuclear weapons.
Lavrov has said that Russia, which launched what it calls a special military operation against Ukraine last week, would face a “real danger” if Kyiv acquired nuclear weapons.
Russia has escalated attacks on crowded Ukrainian cities and a lengthy convoy of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly toward the capital of Kyiv on the seventh day of the war.
Notably, Russia has already put its nuclear deterrent on high alert amid a barrage of Western reprisals over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine which does not possess nuclear weapons.
Moscow has the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge cache of ballistic missiles which form the backbone of the country’s deterrence forces. President Vladimir Putin had said that he was putting the country’s nuclear forces on high alert because Western countries are taking “unfriendly” steps against his country in the wake of the military operation in Ukraine.
Although the US has declined to say whether its nuclear forces, the world’s largest, had been placed on higher alert, the country is minutely watching the developments. The United States has an extremely large and sophisticated nuclear stockpile. Besides, NATO partners France and the UK have their own advanced nuclear capabilities. Other NATO states like Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey host US nuclear weapons on their territory.
No country has used nuclear weapons since World War II, when US President Harry Truman dropped bombs on Japan, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively, in 1945. The two bombings killed around two lakh people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.
Nuclear weapons aren’t just abstract instruments intended to deter aggression and maintain stability. As countries modernise and expand their nuclear weapons arsenals, experts around the world have been warning nuclear weapons are increasingly being seen as “usable” by the political and military leaders who wield them.