Russia rolls out more threats against the West - analysis

Whenever the West and Ukraine appear to be winning and Ukraine is being strengthened, then Russia will roll out this talk.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin signs documents, including a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, during a ceremony in Moscow, Russia, in this picture released February 21, 2022.  (photo credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin signs documents, including a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, during a ceremony in Moscow, Russia, in this picture released February 21, 2022.
(photo credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)

Russia, which invaded Ukraine almost a year ago, continues to use threatening rhetoric to try to dissuade the West from increasing its military support for Kyiv. Western countries want to send more air defenses and armored vehicles to Ukraine this year, beefing up Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and go on the offensive. For Moscow, this presents another problem because Russia continues to be frustrated by its inability to achieve any semblance of victory in Ukraine. 

Every time Russia feels it is failing it tries to roll out new threats, mostly aimed at convincing western media that Moscow might use nuclear weapons or escalate the war in some way. The latest comments are by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. He gave new warnings on Sunday that “Weapons supplies to Ukraine by the United States and NATO for attacks on Russia would lead to retaliatory use of more powerful armaments,” Russia’s state media TASS reported. 

"Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global disaster. If Washington and NATO countries send arms that will be used for attacks on peaceful cities or attempts at occupying our lands, a threat they have been making, this would provoke retaliatory measures with the use of more powerful weapons."

Vyacheslav Volodin

"Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global disaster. If Washington and NATO countries send arms that will be used for attacks on peaceful cities or attempts at occupying our lands, a threat they have been making, this would provoke retaliatory measures with the use of more powerful weapons," Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel. 

This threat comes as Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council warned on Thursday about the risk of “nuclear” war. He also made this threat on Telegram. “The loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Medvedev wrote. Medvedev was a president of Russia and he has made outlandish statements in the past. Nevertheless, his statements clearly have backing from the highest levels. Russian politicians and officials don’t just say “crazy” things, this is all choreographed to threaten the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin uses these voices to leak his own thoughts. Of course, that doesn’t mean the threat is real. The threats are timed to feed into Western media cycles. 

 Russia's State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin attends a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV) Russia's State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin attends a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV)

Russia tries to turn the focus into what the West is doing

Currently, there is a debate in the West about sending main battle tanks to Russia. This would include the Germany-made Leopard tanks. However, Germany and some other countries are reticent to send more weapons and they want to make sure that if they send tanks that there is a coalition of western countries that will do the same. Germany has made it seem like it will only sign off on sending tanks if the US sends its Abrams tanks to Ukraine. This is supposed to add complexity, because even though the US has given huge sums and lots of arms to Ukraine; the US may not be ready to ship large tanks to Ukraine. The US is sending other types of armored fighting vehicles.  

Russia’s “nuclear war” rhetoric appears every few months, on a kind of cycle. Whenever the West and Ukraine appear to be winning and Ukraine is being strengthened, then Russia will roll out this talk. It will also mobilize other voices to make it seem that Ukraine isn’t interested in “peace” and that Ukraine is “escalating.” This terminology is misplaced because it is Russia that escalated and invaded Ukraine.

However, Moscow wants to shift focus to what the West is doing and seek to draw some red lines so that Moscow has an excuse to escalate if it wants. The latest rhetoric is another attempt by Moscow to lay the ground work to excuse its own escalation.