Russia on Wednesday said nuclear war “cannot be won and must never be fought” in a shift from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiery comments in recent months that have raised fears of a nuclear war.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Russia wished to reaffirm its commitment to “preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races” in accordance with a pact between the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and China, which along with Russia make up the five nations with nuclear weapons and capabilities.
“We are strongly convinced that in the current complicated and turbulent situation, caused by irresponsible and impudent actions aimed at undermining our national security, the most immediate task is to avoid any military clash of nuclear powers,” the ministry’s statement reads.
Amid a series of humiliating setbacks and losses in Ukraine, Putin has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons.
When he ordered an invasion of Ukraine in late February, Putin raised the possibility of nuclear weaponization and days later put his nation’s nuclear forces on high alert.
The Russian leader escalated his threats in September, when he boasted that Russia’s arsenal was more modernized than the Western security alliance NATO.
“This is not a bluff,” Putin added in the September speech.
In another speech late last month, however, Putin said Russia does not intend to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.
Still, top Russian military officials have discussed under what circumstances they would use nuclear weapons.
In Wednesday’s statement, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would only use a nuclear weapon “in response to an aggression involving the use of weapons of mass destruction or an aggression with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.”
“We urge other states of the ‘nuclear five’ to demonstrate in practice their willingness to work on solving this top-priority task,” the ministry said, “and to give up the dangerous attempts to infringe on vital interests of each other while balancing on the brink of a direct armed conflict and encouraging provocations with weapons of mass destruction, which can lead to catastrophic consequences.”
The U.S. and Western allies have shunned Russia for its assault on Ukraine and have accused the nation of escalating tensions.
A majority of the member countries of the United Nations have also condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and combative rhetoric against the Western world.