Putin would fire nukes – but this is how UK and allies can stop him

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

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Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated anxieties further around the world last weekend when he announced that Moscow would be moving its nuclear weapons to “special alert”. The development doesn’t signal that Russia intends to use its arsenal, but it has nonetheless raised fears of the world edging closer to a nuclear conflict.

Fiona Hill is one of the US’ most respected experts in Russia and has worked as part of both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Ms Hill told Politico that the Russian President “wants us to know” that he “would” fire nuclear weapons if provoked.

She said: “If anybody thinks that Putin wouldn’t use something that he’s got that is unusual and cruel, think again.

“The thing about Putin is, if he has an instrument, he wants to use it. Why have it if you can’t? He’s already used a nuclear weapon in some respects.

“Russian operatives poisoned Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium and turned him into a human dirty bomb.

“The Russians have already used a weapons-grade nerve agent, Novichok. They’ve used it possibly several times, but for certain twice.”

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Moscow has approximately 4,447 warheads, 1,588 of which are deployed on ballistic missiles and heavy bomber bases.

A further 977 strategic warheads and 1,912 nonstrategic warheads are kept in reserve by the Kremlin.

How could the UK and its allies stop Putin?

Ms Hill said that sanctions alone aren’t enough to deter Mr Putin from bringing nuclear weapons into play.

So far the UK, US and a number of its allies have imposed measures against Moscow, several of which are personally against the Russian President.

Penalties introduced by the UK alone include asset freezes on all major Russian banks, limits to how much Russians can deposit in UK banks, and “stringent export controls” for technology sold to Moscow.

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Instead, to prevent Mr Putin from using nuclear weapons, Ms Hill has advocated for an “international response”.

She added that the response shouldn’t be a military one but rather that more countries – in addition to those part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) – need to push back on Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine.

One such nation could include China, which as of yet has decided to not get involved in the conflict.

However, on Monday a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry moved to clarify the country’s official stance by stating the Sino-Russian relationship is one of “strategic partnership”, adding the two nations are not “allies”.

After some initial disagreements, the European Union (EU), US and their allies agreed to cut off a number of Russian banks from the main international payment system, Swift.

Russian aircrafts have also been banned from flying into EU or UK airspace, with the US being urged to follow suit.

The West is hoping to strangle the Russian economy and restrict its ability to fund Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine.

However, these sanctions are likely to need several months to fully take effect; by which point, Mr Putin may have already achieved his end goal.

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