Russia: Nuclear threat ‘diminished’ says Khodorkovsky
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Vladimir Putin has become “much more cautious” about the use of nuclear weapons, according to a native businessman, since talking with Chinese officials and President Xi Jinping. Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, speaking to BBC Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark, said he believed the danger of nuclear war had “diminished” after nearly six weeks of heightened concern. Since September 21, Putin has said his threats of nuclear war were “not a bluff”, has claimed he would use “all the power and means at our disposal” to protect the newly-annexed four regions of Ukraine, cited the US atomic bombs in Japan in August 1945 as “precedent” and falsely accused Ukraine of engineering a dirty bomb laced with radioactive material to incite further escalation, according to experts.
But, Mr Khodorkovsky claimed Chinese allies, proving evermore vital to Russia as the West separates itself from Putin’s regime, have pulled the Russian leader back.
Ms Wark said: “On the question of nuclear, he made the threat again last month that he could, and he was not bluffing, he said, launch a nuclear weapon.
“Give me a percent of the chances of that actually happening, in your view.”
Mr Khodorkovsky said: “There was that growing danger but after talks with his Chinese colleague, Putin has become much more cautious when talking about nuclear weapons.
“So, I think that danger has now diminished.”
Vladimir Putin has made several threats to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and the West, dating back to 2014.
Months after Putin annexed Crimea, the small islands south of mainland Ukraine, Russia changed its military doctrine to open up the possibility of a nuclear first strike in response to a threat from NATO.
And in 2018, Putin suggested that should there be a nuclear war, Russians would go to heaven while the Americans would “just croak”.
Since the invasion, or reinvasion, of Ukraine on February 24, Putin has increased his threats, beginning by immediately putting his nuclear forces on high alert.
Following a barrage of Ukrainian counter-assaults that began towards the end of the summer period, with thousands of Russian troops killed and many more forced to retreat from occupied territory, Putin has repeatedly resorted to nuclear threats.
On September 21, he warned the West that he was not bluffing about the use of such warheads, a comment that has been made often about Putin’s remarks.
He said: “This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”
A week later, at a Kremlin ceremony to formally annex around 18 percent of Ukrainian territory, Putin said the US had created a “precedent” for dropping nuclear warheads, citing the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945.
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But the seriousness of Putin’s threats appears to have been diluted by conversations with Chinese counterparts, with the communist country a key ally of Russia during the conflict in Ukraine.
Hours after Putin said he was not bluffing about the use of nuclear weapons last month, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called for a “ceasefire” in Ukraine.
He said: “We call on the relevant parties to realise a ceasefire through dialogue and consultation, and find a solution that accommodates the legitimate security concerns of all parties as soon as possible.”
This was only a week after Putin, in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, said he acknowledged China’s “concerns” with the Ukraine operation, appearing to try to curry the autocrat’s favour.
As Russia becomes more isolated from the West, relations with China will prove evermore valuable, and it appears then that if China is against the use of nuclear weapons, it is unlikely Russia will follow through on their threats.
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