Dmitry Medvedev, an outspoken former Russian president who is close to Vladimir Putin, has warned NATO that Moscow’s defeat in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war.
“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” Medvedev, who serves as deputy chairman of Putin’s powerful Security Council, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
“Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends,” said Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012.
He also said the military alliance and other Western defence leaders, due to meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to discuss support for Ukraine, should consider the risks of their policy.
The Kremlin was quick to endorse Medvedev’s remarks, saying they were in full accordance with Moscow’s principles.
Moscow’s doctrine allows for a nuclear attack after “aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened”.
Medvedev, 57, who once presented himself as a reformer who was ready to work with the United States to liberalise Russia, has recast himself as the most publicly hawkish member of Putin’s circle.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago on February 24, Medvedev has repeatedly raised the threat of nuclear chaos and used insults to describe the West.
Russia and the United States, by far the largest nuclear powers, hold about 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear warheads.
Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads while the United States has 5,428, China 350, France 290 and the United Kingdom 225, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
As president, Putin is Russia’s ultimate decision maker on the use of nuclear weapons. —News agencies