Dmitry Medvedev attends a meeting in Moscow on July 18, 2023.
Russia may be forced to use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s counteroffensive succeeds, senior Russian official Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday – the latest in a series of nuclear threats made during Moscow’s invasion by a key ally of President Vladimir Putin.
“Just imagine that the offensive … together with NATO succeeded and ended up with a part of our country being taken away. Then we would have to use nuclear weapons by virtue of the provisions of the Russian presidential decree,” said Medvedev, the vice president for Russia’s Security Council, in a Telegram post.
“There would simply be no other solution,” the former Russian president added. “Our enemies should beg our warriors not to allow the world to go up in nuclear flames.”
Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012, has struck a belligerent tone throughout Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, repeatedly raising the specter of nuclear conflict.
Last April, he warned of Russian nuclear expansion if Sweden and Finland join NATO. Helsinki joined the defense alliance later that month, while Stockholm’s path to NATO membership was cleared earlier this month after Turkey dropped its objections.
In September, Medvedev said strategic nuclear weapons could be used to defend territories incorporated into Russia from Ukraine.
And in January, when NATO member states discussed new arms shipments to UkraineMedvedev said defeat of Russia in the war could lead to nuclear conflict.
“The loss of a nuclear force in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Medvedev wrote on Telegram in January. “Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends.
“This should be obvious to anyone. Even to a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence.”
Medvedev’s remarks on Sunday again raised the possibility that Russia could potentially lose the war after nearly 18 months of attrition – a rare admission by a senior Russian official.
They also came just hours after Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Kiev of attacking Moscow with drones. Three drones were intercepted on Sunday, but a business and shopping building in the western part of the Russian capital was hit, the ministry said.
The US has in the past warned Russia against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, both through private direct communications, as well as public channels, including at last year’s UN General Assembly.
Last month Putin said Russia had moved a first batch of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, claiming they were placed there for “deterrence”.
In a speech at St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin said that the rest of the tactical nuclear weapons Russia intends to move to Belarus would be transferred “by the end of the summer or by the end of the year.”
The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said it had “no reason to doubt” Putin’s claim that nuclear weapons were in Belarus.
But US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at the time that the US “has seen no reason to adjust our own nuclear posture or any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said last month that, in the face of aggression, he would show “no hesitation” in using the Russian tactical nuclear weapons stationed on Belarusian soil.
But the senior DIA officials said they do not believe Lukashenko would have any control over the arsenal. It would most likely be completely controlled by Russia, the officials said.
Russia has about 4,477 deployed and reserve nuclear warheads, including about 1,900 tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.