Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leadership that by aiming to defeat Russia in Ukraine could result in a nuclear war.
Medvedev, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said no major nuclear power has lost a war critical to its existence. Medvedev made the comments on Thursday, a day ahead of a crucial meeting of NATO defense leaders in Germany on Friday to discuss further ways to boost Ukraine military.
"The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war ... Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends," Medvedev, who is currently Russia's Security Council chief, wrote on Telegram.
Russian Nuclear Doctrine
Russia's nuclear doctrine stipulates that the state can go for a nuclear strike after in the event of an aggression against the Russian Federation using conventional weapons and if that attack threatens the very existence of the state. Russia has a nuclear stockpile of close to 6,000 warheads, while the United States has around 5,500.
Medvedev, a highly influential Kremlin insider, has been particularly brazen in his nuclear threats against Ukraine and the western countries that support Kyiv. "If the threat to Russia exceeds the established danger limit, we will have to respond ... Without asking anyone's permission, without long consultations. And it's definitely not a bluff," Medvedev said in September, raising the spectre of a nuclear war.
In October, Russia launched multiple nuclear missiles as part of a readiness drill, sending a dark warning to the US and allies. President Putin monitored the launch of strategic nuclear weapons including ballistic and cruise missiles as Moscow held a show of force. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the aim of the practice launches was to test the readiness of Russia's strategic offensive forces for conducting 'massive nuclear strike' in response to any enemy nuclear strike.
Medvedev's direct threat came even as reports said the United States would support Kyiv if it launches an attack on the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. The The New York Times reported that several US officials are growing more comfortable with the idea of helping Ukraine in a potential aggression in Crimea.
An attack on Crimea, which has been underMoscow's control since its annexation in 2014, will be a red line that Russia will never accept and will invariably result in a wider and more catastrophic war. It is not clear what exactly would be the US strategy if this spills out into an escalation in which Russia uses tactical nuclear weapons.