WATCH: Putin Issues DIRECT Threat To NATO

By Alan Hume | Friday, 01 March 2024 08:30 AM
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In a stern warning to the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged on Thursday to achieve Moscow's objectives in Ukraine and cautioned against further interference in the conflict, citing the risk of a global nuclear war.

Putin's stark warning was delivered during a state-of-the-nation address, ahead of an election next month that he is virtually guaranteed to win. His remarks underscore his willingness to escalate the ongoing power struggle with the West to safeguard Russia's gains in Ukraine.

The Russian leader appeared to be responding to a recent statement by French President Emmanuel Macron, who suggested that the future deployment of Western ground troops to Ukraine should not be dismissed. Putin cautioned that such a move would have "tragic" repercussions for the countries involved.

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While the West accuses Russia of planning to attack NATO allies in Europe, Putin noted that Western allies were "selecting targets for striking our territory" and discussing the possibility of deploying a NATO contingent to Ukraine.

"We remember the fate of those who sent their troop contingents to the territory of our country," Putin said, seemingly referring to the unsuccessful invasions by Napoleon and Hitler. "Now the consequences for the potential invaders will be far more tragic."

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In his two-hour address to lawmakers and top officials, Putin portrayed Western leaders as reckless and irresponsible. He warned the West to remember that Russia also possesses weapons capable of striking targets on their territory, raising the real threat of a nuclear conflict that could lead to the destruction of civilization.

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This forceful statement follows earlier warnings from Putin, who has frequently reminded the world of Russia's nuclear capabilities since deploying troops to Ukraine in February 2022, in an effort to deter the West from increasing its military support for Kyiv.

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Putin stressed that Russia's nuclear forces are in "full readiness," with the military having deployed powerful new weapons, some of which have been tested on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The Russian leader listed the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, which has entered service with Russian nuclear forces, along with the Burevestnik atomic-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon atomic-powered, nuclear-armed drone, which are completing their tests.

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However, Putin dismissed Western leaders' claims about the threat of a Russian attack on NATO allies in Europe as "ravings" and once again rejected Washington's assertion that Moscow was considering the deployment of space-based nuclear weapons.

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Putin accused the U.S. of using these allegations as a tactic to draw Russia into nuclear arms control talks on American terms, even as Washington continues its efforts to deliver a "strategic defeat" to Moscow in Ukraine.

"They just want to show their citizens, as well as others, that they continue to rule the world," he said. "It won't work."

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In his speech, which heavily focused on economic and social issues ahead of the March 15-17 presidential vote, Putin claimed that Russia was "defending its sovereignty and security and protecting our compatriots" in Ukraine. He asserted that Russian forces have the upper hand in the fighting, a claim supported by the situation on the front lines, where towns and villages have fallen to Russian forces in recent weeks.

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Putin reiterated his claim that the West is intent on destroying Russia, stating "they need a dependent, waning, dying space in the place of Russia so that they can do whatever they want."

The Russian leader paid tribute to the troops who have fallen in Ukraine with a moment of silence, and proposed that military veterans should form the core of the country's new elite, inviting them to join a new training program for senior civil servants.

Putin has consistently stated that he sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022 to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a major security threat to Russia by joining NATO. This move has been condemned by Kyiv and its allies as an unprovoked act of aggression.

While Putin has repeatedly expressed a willingness to negotiate an end to the fighting, he has also warned that Russia will retain its gains.

Putin, 71, who is running as an independent candidate in the March 15-17 presidential election, relies on the tight control over Russia's political system that he has established during his 24 years in power. His reelection is virtually guaranteed, as prominent critics who could challenge him have either been imprisoned or are living abroad, and most independent media have been banned.

Russia's best-known opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who attempted to run against Putin in 2018 but was rejected, died suddenly in an Arctic prison colony earlier this month while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges. Navalny's funeral is scheduled for Friday.

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