Moscow: President Vladimir Putin presented the confrontation with the West over the Ukraine war as an existential battle for the existence of Russia and the Russian people – and said he had to take NATO’s nuclear capabilities into account.

A year after ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin is increasingly projecting the war as a make-or-break moment in Russian history – and saying he believes Russia and its future people are in jeopardy.

“They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part – the Russian Federation,” Putin told Rossiya 1 state television in an interview recorded on Wednesday but released on Sunday.

NATO and the West reject such narratives, saying they aim to help Ukraine defend itself against an unprovoked attack. Putin said the West wanted to divide Russia and then take control of the world’s biggest producer of raw materials, a move he said could lead to the destruction of many Russians, including the ethnic Russian majority.

“I do not even know if such an ethnic group as the Russian people will be able to survive in the form in which it exists today,” Putin said. He said the West’s plans had been put to paper, though did not specify where.

The United States has denied that it wants to destroy Russia, while President Joe Biden has warned that a conflict between Russia and NATO could trigger World War Three, although he has also said that Putin needs power. Putin said the tens of billions of dollars worth of U.S. and European military assistance to Ukraine showed that Russia was now facing off against NATO itself – the Cold War nightmare of both Soviet and Western leaders.

Ukraine says it will not rest until every last Russian soldier is ejected from Ukraine, including from Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014. Putin’s existential determination to war allows the 70-year-old Kremlin chief to prepare the Russian people for a deeper conflict while giving them much more freedom in the types of weapons they might one day use.

Russia’s official nuclear doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons if they – or other types of weapons of mass destruction – are used against it, or if conventional weapons are used, which endanger “the very existence of the state.”

Putin has signaled that he is prepared to dismantle the architecture of nuclear arms control – including major power moratoriums on nuclear testing – unless the West backs down in Ukraine. On Tuesday, he tried to underscore Russia’s resolve by suspending a landmark nuclear arms control treaty in Ukraine, announced that new strategic systems had been put on combat duty, and warned that Moscow might resume nuclear tests.

Putin said Russia would only resume discussion once French and British nuclear weapons were also taken into account. Russia, which inherited nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union, has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. According to the Federation of American Scientists, it has more weapons than the United States, France, and Britain combined.

“In today’s conditions, when all the leading NATO countries have declared their main goal as inflicting a strategic defeat on us so that our people suffer as they say, how can we ignore their nuclear capabilities in these conditions?” Putin said.

Putin said that the biggest result of the past year was the unity of the Russian people.

By Archana

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