Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to intimidate Germany with his threat to use nuclear weapons, according to a senior German official.
“With the threat of nuclear weapons, he is primarily aiming at Germany,” Christoph Heusgen, a foreign policy adviser to ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel, told local media.
He said Putin was trying to stir up fears and weaken support for Ukraine.
Concerns over a possible nuclear attack by Russia have grown ever since Putin vowed to use all available means to protect the country, a statement that observers took as a reference to nuclear arms.
“We’re back to Cold War logic,” added Heusgen, who is also the current chairman of the Munich Security Conference, a high-level annual summit on international security policy.
The Ukraine war has seen Germany abandon its traditional restraint and pacifism in security and defense matters.
Germany has provided financial and military assistance to Ukraine, while Chancellor Olaf Scholz has vowed to help rebuild the Ukrainian army.
Scholz also overturned Berlin’s decades-long policy toward Russia and pledged to end its energy dependence on Moscow.
Heusgen said the Americans have made it clear to Moscow that it would face catastrophic consequences for using nuclear weapons.
“I cannot imagine that there are suicidal Russian generals who would implement such an order,” he said.
In addition, Putin would not want complete global isolation, he said, adding that even China would not allow the use of nuclear weapons.
Ukraine’s NATO bid
On Ukraine’s possible NATO membership, Heusgen pointed out that former German leader Merkel vetoed the idea in 2008.
However, he said the situation had changed as a result of Putin’s “breach of international law.”
“We have to think about what guarantees we can give Ukraine. But I think we should no longer rule out NATO membership for Ukraine,” he added.