Russia’s nuclear threats provoke violent reactions in the EU
In Europe, Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons in connection with the war in Ukraine have sparked a nuclear weapons debate that could spiral out of control.
Finding the right tone in nuclear communications appears to be a real challenge for European leaders when the wrong words can bring the world to the brink of nuclear war.
“Any nuclear attack on Ukraine will trigger a response – not a nuclear response, but a response so militarily powerful – that the Russian military will be annihilated.”said Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, in surprisingly blunt remarks on Thursday (October 13).
The statement follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly offensive rhetoric and his repeated threats to use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory.
“Mr Putin says he is not bluffing about the nuclear threat. He must then understand that the countries that support Ukraine, the European Union and its member states, the United States and NATO, are not bluffing either.”Averti M. Borrell.
Commentators have noted that Mr Borrell, who represents the EU’s diplomatic arm, appears to have overstepped his bounds by threatening Russia with total military annihilation, especially since the bloc is not yet a full-fledged military power.
Mr. Borrell also described Europe as a «garden» of political freedom and economic prosperity, but added that the rest of the world is primarily a “jungle”.
Asked about Mr Borrell’s comments on military annihilation, EU top foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine would bring about a complete change and EU member states were preparing for all possible scenarios.
Several European diplomats appeared to dislike Borrell’s comments, while military experts stressed that the point of nuclear deterrence is to remain vague about the possible response it might trigger.
“We shouldn’t brag about what we could or couldn’t do”said a European diplomat in veiled criticism.
According to Emmanuel Macron “the less we talk about it, the more credible we are”
Mr Macron also warned of leaders’ responsibility for nuclear rhetoric and said he had spoken ” multiple times “ to Mr. Putin.
“We have a lesson [nucléaire]understood”said Mr Macron. “Deterrence works, but the less we talk about it, the less we rush the threat, the more credible we are. »
“Too many people are talking about it”added Mr. Macron – the comments were then criticized by observers and political opponents.
Mr. Macron’s decision to show the limits of France‘s nuclear doctrine and the timing of this statement ” curious “said Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the think tank Foundation for Strategic Research.
“In my opinion, the right answer was, ‘I’m not going to play this game. […] and Mr. Putin definitely needs to know that he would be the loser.”he tweeted.
France is the only nuclear power in the EU and says it would not react to a nuclear attack in Ukraine “or in the region” should not go unnoticed by other NATO members in Eastern Europe.
It is they who, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have placed particular trust in Article 5 of the Alliance’s Mutual Defense Clause, which requires members to ensure the defense of the other members in the event of attack. offensive.
NATO’s position is clear but more cautious
Mr. Putin would cross a “very important line” if he orders the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday (October 13).
When asked what NATO would do if Russia launched a nuclear attack, Stoltenberg replied: “We won’t detail exactly how we will respond, but of course it will fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. This means that a very important line has been crossed. »
He also added that “Even the eventual use of a smaller nuclear weapon would be a very serious matter that would fundamentally change the character of the war in Ukraine, and of course that would have consequences. »
Mr. Stoltenberg’s comments came after the semi-annual meeting of NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, held behind closed doors among Alliance defense ministers in Brussels this week.
In addition, there are growing concerns over Putin’s insistence that he will use any means necessary to defend Russian territory.
Both the military alliance and Russia are scheduled to hold nuclear exercises in the coming days.
The alliance’s routine annual exercise, dubbed “Steadfast Noon,” will include 14 Allies and nuclear-capable aircraft, but no live bombs. Conventional jet aircraft, surveillance and refueling aircraft also regularly take part.
The objective is to ensure that Alliance personnel and equipment are prepared for the worst-case scenario and, in the current context, a “feeling of security” the members of the alliance, as NATO diplomats have said.
A senior NATO official said Wednesday that a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine would lead to it “almost certainly a physical response from many allies and possibly NATO itself”.
When asked earlier this week if the timing for such an exercise was wrong, Stoltenberg told reporters: “It would be a very bad signal if we suddenly canceled a long-planned routine exercise because of the war in Ukraine”.
Russia’s annual Grom exercise, meanwhile, usually takes place in late October and allows Russia to test its nuclear-capable bombers, submarines and missiles.
“We will monitor this as always. And of course we will remain vigilant, especially given the veiled nuclear threats and dangerous rhetoric we have seen from the Russian side.”said Herr Stoltenberg.
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