​Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin

Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin attends the parliamentary body's first plenary session of the year on January 17, 2023 in Moscow.

(Photo: Contributor/Getty Images)

'Global Catastrophe' Coming If West Keeps Arming Ukraine, Top Russia Official Says

Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Volodin threatened nuclear war as NATO members debate whether to send more tanks to Ukraine.

Should the West continue to ship arms to Ukraine, Moscow will retaliate with "more powerful weapons," a top Russian government official and close ally of President Vladimir Putin said Sunday, referring to the use of nuclear missiles.

"Deliveries of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime will lead to a global catastrophe," Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house, said in a statement shared on the Telegram messaging app.

"If Washington and NATO countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories, as they threaten, this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons," said Volodin.

Ukraine, with the support of its Western allies, is seeking to reclaim territory illegally annexed by the Kremlin in recent months—not seize Russian land, as Volodin asserted.

Volodin's threat "comes amid arguments over whether Germany will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion," Politicoreported. "Kyiv has requested the German-made tanks, which it says it needs to renew its counteroffensive against Moscow's forces."

This is not the first time that Russian officials have threatened to use nuclear weapons since Putin attacked Ukraine last February. On Thursday, one day before NATO and other military leaders met in Germany to discuss how to defeat Russia in Ukraine, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of the country's security council, said that a loss by Moscow could lead to nuclear war.

"Berlin has so far resisted the call from Ukraine and its allies to send the tanks without the U.S. making the first move, over fears of an escalation in the conflict," Politico noted Sunday. "Berlin also hasn't approved deliveries of the tanks from its allies, as Germany gets a final say over any re-exports of the vehicles from countries that have purchased them."

The news outlet previously reported that the $2.5 billion military package announced Thursday by the White House excludes the Army's 60-ton M1 Abrams tanks due to maintenance and logistical issues, not because sending them would intensify the war.

NATO has sent more than $40 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion. The U.S. government, de facto leader of the military alliance, has authorized more than $26.7 billion alone.

On Sunday, Volodin urged U.S. and European lawmakers to "realize their responsibility to humanity."

"With their decisions, Washington and Brussels are leading the world to a terrible war: to a completely different military action than today, when strikes are carried out exclusively on the military and critical infrastructure used by the Kyiv regime," said Volodin.

Contrary to Volodin's claim, Russia has not limited its ongoing assault to military assets. According to a top Kyiv official, more than 9,000 Ukranian civilians have been killed since Russia invaded 11 months ago. The United Nations has confirmed more than 7,000 civilian deaths in Ukraine but says the real figure is much higher.

A strike on a Ukrainian apartment building last week, Russia's deadliest attack on civilians in months, killed dozens of people. Meanwhile, fighting near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has sparked fears of a disastrous meltdown on multiple occasions.

"Given the technological superiority of Russian weapons," Volodin continued, "foreign politicians making such decisions need to understand that this could end in a global tragedy that will destroy their countries."

"Arguments that the nuclear powers have not previously used weapons of mass destruction in local conflicts are untenable," he added. "Because these states did not face a situation where there was a threat to the security of their citizens and the territorial integrity of the country."

Volodin was echoing points made recently by other Russian officials. Asked Thursday if Medvedev's remarks that day reflected an attempt to escalate the war, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "No, it absolutely does not mean that."

Peskov argued that Medvedev's comments were consistent with Russia's nuclear doctrine, which permits a nuclear strike after "aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened."

As Reutersnoted, Putin has portrayed Russia's so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine as "an existential battle with an aggressive and arrogant West, and has said that Russia will use all available means to protect itself and its people."

Last January, one month before the start of the largest war in Europe since WWII, Russia, the United States, China, France, and the United Kingdom—home to more than 12,000 nuclear weapons combined—issued a joint statement affirming that "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought" and reaffirming that they plan to adhere to non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and pledges.

Nevertheless, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council continue to enlarge or modernize their nuclear arsenals. For the first time since the 1980s, the global nuclear stockpile, 90% of which is controlled by Moscow and Washington, is projected to grow in the coming years, and the risk of weapons capable of annihilating life on Earth being used is rising.

In early October, U.S. President Joe Biden warned that Russia's war on Ukraine has brought the world closer to "Armageddon" than at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Less than three weeks later, however, his administration published a Nuclear Posture Review that nonproliferation advocates said increases the likelihood of catastrophe, in part because it leaves intact the option of a nuclear first strike. The U.S. remains the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs in August 1945.

Experts have long sounded the alarm about the war in Ukraine, saying that it could spiral into a direct conflict between Russia and NATO, both of which are flush with nuclear weapons. Despite such warnings, the Western military coalition has continued to prioritize weapons shipments over diplomacy.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin admitted last April that the U.S. wants "to see Russia weakened," implying that Washington is willing to prolong the deadly conflict as long as it helps destabilize Moscow.

Peace advocates, by contrast, have repeatedly called on the U.S. to help secure a swift diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine war before it descends into a global nuclear cataclysm.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres recently told attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos: "There will be an end... there is an end of everything, but I do not see an end of the war in the immediate future. I do not see a chance at the present moment to have a serious peace negotiation between the two parties."

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