Vladimir Putin proclaimed in a speech on Friday that Russia had annexed four regions of Ukraine, gathering his top officials together to listen to him. He set out not just how he would defend the annexed areas with the usual military force, but made alarming references to the precedent set by the US’s use of nuclear force against Japan in the second world war.
Annexing the four regions sends a signal that Putin is willing to defend these highly contested areas as he would the rest of Russia – with nuclear force. But Russia’s position in the war currently appears weaker, with growing discontent among Russians about Putin’s attempts to mobilise another 300,000 soldiers from the population and amid Ukraine’s recent significant regaining of territory.
As Andrew Roth tells Michael Safi, this less powerful position could hold the answer on why Putin is choosing to ramp up the nuclear rhetoric. But how seriously should we take his threat? And how will the west, Ukraine, and the rest of the world react?
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