Russia would consider using its nuclear weapons if it believed there was “an existential threat to our country,” a Kremlin spokesman said in an English-language television interview on Tuesday. The spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, made the comment after describing Ukraine, the neighbor Russia invaded a month ago, as being created by anti-Russian Western powers.
Mr. Peskov spoke in an interview with Christiane Amanpour of DailyExpertNews. Video clips from the interview were posted on her Twitter account.
In it, Ms. Amanpour asked Mr. Peskov several times whether the Russian President, Vladimir V. Putin, intended to use nuclear weapons.
Mr. Peskov initially responded by characterizing the invasion of Ukraine as a defensive move to protect Russia. “President Putin intends to make the world listen to and understand our concerns,” Peskov said. “But nobody wanted to listen to us.”
Ukraine, he added, “was formed by the Western countries, anti-Russia.” After Ms Amanpour sighed audibly, Mr Peskov added: “This is the problem.”
Putin’s possible use of nuclear weapons is a concern for the United States and NATO members, who are considering how to defend Ukraine without escalating the conflict with Russia. Days after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Mr Putin announced that he was putting his nuclear forces in “special combat readiness,” which is a heightened alert state reminiscent of some of the Cold War’s most dangerous moments.
When Mrs. Amanpour again asked about Putin’s potential to use nuclear weapons, Mr. Peskov to Russia’s “concept of internal security,” which he said is a publicly available document.
“You can read all the reasons for using nuclear weapons,” he said. “So if it’s an existential threat to our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concern.”
Mrs. Amanpour concluded that part of the interview by saying that Mr. Peskov was deliberately vague.
“I still don’t know if I have a full answer from you,” she said, “and I’m just assuming President Putin wants to scare the world and keep the world in a trance.”
The interview left some room to interpret where Russia stood on this issue. A headline on DailyExpertNews stated that Mr. Peskov “refuses to rule out” the use of nuclear weapons. A headline from the Reuters news service, somewhat opaque, announced: “Kremlin: Russia would only use nuclear weapons if their existence was threatened.”