Who is Russia’s deterrent ‘special alert’ statement aimed at? Experts reveal hidden target

Ukraine: Sergiy Kyslytsya on Putin's 'madness' and nuclear threat

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On Saturday, President Putin accused western powers of allowing “aggressive statements” against his regime. His rhetoric built on recent threats that nations toying with aiding Ukraine would face “consequences they have never seen”. At the same time, Belarus’ government claimed voters had approved a constitutional change that revokes its neutrality and nuclear-free stance, allowing the Russian ally to store weapons if asked by Moscow.

Where was Vladimir Putin directing his statement?

In his speech on Monday, Mr Putin claimed “leading Nato countries” had pushed him to put his armed forces on alert without blaming individual nations.

Not everyone believes it was as directionless as it appeared, however.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, two experts outlined the intended destination of his inflammatory statement.

Brian Taylor, a professor of politics at Syracuse University in New York and authority on Putinism, explained the Russian President directed his statement squarely at the US.

He said: “Vladimir Putin’s statement about moving Russia’s nuclear arsenal to high combat alert is directed primarily at the United States, the other nuclear superpower.

“It’s his effort to signal his resolve and warn the United States against opposing his war of aggression against Ukraine.”

And David Marples, a professor of Russian and East European history at the University of Alberta, concurred.

He identified the particular actions taken by President Biden that led to his Russian counterpart’s rebuke.

Professor Marples said: “I think it was aimed at Biden in particular, as the US has bolstered military support for Ukraine and sent more troops to Poland.”

He added that it is “inevitable” western nations would likely intensify their presence in the area.

A “groundswell of voices” directed by NATO to “save the Ukrainian state” would follow, he said, although it is unlikely Mr Biden would agree with the move.

Will Vladimir Putin launch a nuclear attack?

Most experts have concluded the threat was intended to raise the stakes for nations backing Ukraine rather than show genuine intent to direct a nuclear assault.

Professors Marples and Taylor were no different in their conviction, stating a nuclear attack from Russia is unlikely.

Professor Taylor said Mr Putin is “highly, highly unlikely to attack anyone with nuclear weapons”.

He added the statement was “intended as a signal” and “should be seen as such”.

The US, in response, is also “unlikely to take any action with its nuclear forces”, he said, and the correct response to Mr Putin’s “sabre-ratting” is to ignore it.

Professor Marples said nuclear weapons functioned as his “ultimate deterrent”, and it would be a “disaster for humankind if he went through with the threat”.

But he included a caveat, stating he “did not think he would be irrational and emotional enough to launch a full-scale attack on Ukraine, either”.

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