Putin Threatens to Arm Nations to Strike Western Targets

Putin Threatens to Arm Nations to Strike Western Targets

President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that Russia might supply long-range weapons to other nations to strike Western targets in response to NATO allies permitting Ukraine to use their arms against Russian territory.

Putin also reiterated Moscow’s willingness to use nuclear weapons if it perceived a threat to its sovereignty. He stated that recent Western actions would further erode international security and could lead to “very serious problems” during a rare session with international journalists since Moscow’s deployment of troops into Ukraine.

“That would signify their direct involvement in the conflict against the Russian Federation, and we reserve the right to respond in kind,” Putin added. The United States and Germany had recently authorised Ukraine to target certain locations on Russian soil with the long-range weapons they were providing to Kyiv.

On Wednesday, a Western official and a U.S. senator revealed that Ukraine had used U.S. weapons to strike inside Russia under new directives from President Joe Biden, which allowed American arms to be used for the specific purpose of defending Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Putin claimed that the use of some Western-supplied weapons involved military personnel from those countries controlling the missiles and selecting targets. Consequently, he said Moscow might take “asymmetrical” measures elsewhere in the world.

The U.S. military maintained that it does not control the missiles it provides to Ukraine or the targets. “If they consider it feasible to deliver such weapons to the combat zone to launch strikes on our territory and create problems for us, why shouldn’t we have the right to supply weapons of the same type to regions where they can be used to launch strikes on sensitive facilities of the countries that target Russia?” he queried.

“We will consider it,” he told journalists on the sidelines of the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. When asked whether Russia could resort to using nuclear arms, Putin said the conditions for deploying that arsenal are clearly outlined in Moscow’s security doctrine.

“For some reason, they believe in the West that Russia will never use it,” he remarked. “Look at what is written there,” he said of Russia’s nuclear doctrine. “If somebody’s actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible to use all means at our disposal.”

Even Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons are much more powerful than those used by the U.S. against Japan in World War II, Putin noted.

During a three-hour session with senior leaders of international news agencies, including The Associated Press, Putin also asserted that Russia-U.S. relations would remain unchanged regardless of whether Biden or Donald Trump wins the American presidential election in November.

“We will work with any president the American people elect,” Putin stated. “I say this sincerely, we don’t believe that the election will alter the Russian trajectory in American politics,” he added. “We don’t think so. We think nothing significant will happen.”

Putin also said Trump’s felony conviction at his hush money trial last week was the result of “the use of the court system as part of internal political struggles.”

The Russian leader addressed various topics, although the over two years of conflict in Ukraine dominated the session. Putin claimed the West had opportunities to end the fighting in Ukraine but did not act on them, citing a letter he supposedly wrote to Biden suggesting that hostilities could end in two or three months if Washington ceased supplying Kyiv with weapons.

Asked about Russian military losses, Putin said no country would reveal such information during hostilities, but claimed without providing details that Ukraine’s casualties were five times greater than Russia’s. He also said Ukraine held more than 1,300 Russian troops captive, while over 6,400 Ukrainian soldiers were being held in Russia.

The claims could not be independently verified, and some Western estimates put Russia’s losses much higher than Ukraine’s. When asked by AP about the case of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Putin said the U.S. was “taking energetic steps” to secure his release.

Gershkovich was jailed over a year ago while on a reporting trip and charged with espionage. The journalist, his employer, and the U.S. have denied the allegations, and Washington has declared him wrongfully detained. Putin said such releases “aren’t decided via mass media” but through a “discreet, calm and professional approach.”

“And they certainly should be decided only on the basis of reciprocity,” he added, alluding to a potential prisoner swap. Putin has used the St. Petersburg forum as a platform for promoting Russia’s development and attracting investors.

The meeting with journalists took place in Gazprom’s new global headquarters, a needle-shaped 81-storey skyscraper overlooking the Gulf of Finland. While meetings with journalists were part of previous forums, he had not taken questions from Western journalists at the St. Petersburg event since deploying troops to Ukraine.

Last year, journalists from countries that Russia regards as unfriendly including the U.S., the U.K,  and the European Union were not invited, and Western officials and investors also avoided the session after wide-ranging sanctions were imposed on Moscow over Ukraine.

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