An ally of President Vladimir Putin warned NATO on Thursday that a defeat of Russia in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war, while the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said the world would end if the West tried to destroy Russia.
Such apocalyptic rhetoric is intended to deter the U.S.-led NATO military alliance from getting even more involved in the war, on the eve of a meeting of Ukraine’s allies to discuss sending Kyiv more weapons.
But the explicit recognition that Russia might lose on the battlefield marked a rare moment of public doubt from a prominent member of Putin’s inner circle.
“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who serves as deputy chairman of Putin’s powerful security council, said in a post on Telegram.
“Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends,” said Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012.
Striking a similar tone at what he described as an anxious time for the country, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said in a sermon for Epiphany that trying to destroy Russia would mean the end of the world.
Medvedev said NATO and other defence leaders, due to meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to talk about strategy and support for the West’s attempt to defeat Russia in Ukraine, should think about the risks of their policy.
Putin casts Russia’s “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.