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Russia announces battlefield nuke drill

​Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 3, 2024.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 3, 2024.

Sputnik/Aleksey Babushkin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS
On Monday, Russia’s defense ministry announced it will hold military drills that simulate the use of battlefield nuclear weapons. It’s a response to news from the US and Europe that substantial military and financial aid are on their way to Ukraine – and to comments from French President Emmanuel Macron that NATO shouldn’t exclude the possibility of sending alliance soldiers to support Ukrainian troops.

It’s also a flex from Vladimir Putin ahead of his fifth inauguration as president taking place today and Thursday’s annual Victory Day celebration, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany. This is the first time Russia has publicly announced drills that include so-called tactical nuclear weapons, which are far less powerful than warheads that can be fitted to intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Western governments will take this public threat seriously, but Russia’s use of these weapons remains highly unlikely. Putin knows that tactical nukes might well unite, rather than divide, Ukraine’s Western allies and sharply increase the risk that NATO fully enters a war that Russia can still win if it can isolate Ukraine further from its backers.


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