UK and NATO reaction pinpointed if desperate Putin goes nuclear

Russian army 'annihilated' if they launch nuclear attack says Borrell

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Vladimir Putin understands he “is finished” if he presses the nuclear button in an attempt to reverse the tide of the war in Ukraine, Express.co.uk has been told, as the Russian leader pushes a potential response to the forefront for NATO leaders. 

Putin has been inconsistent in his nuclear messaging, appearing to favour brinkmanship in some comments only to rein in the bellicose remarks in others.

Most recently, the Kremlin said the four Ukrainian regions illegally annexed by Russia last month fall under the protection of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.

The regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia were inducted into Russia in a ceremony held by Putin after a set of internationally-condemned sham referendums.

Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told a media conference earlier this week: “All these territories are inalienable parts of the Russian Federation and they are all protected.

“Their security is provided for at the same level as [it is for] the rest of Russia’s territory.”

But if Putin were to launch any form of tactical nuclear strike against Ukrainian forces attempting to retake the regions, the UK and its NATO allies will likely try to eliminate the nuclear threat “with our precision-guided conventional weapons”, former UK and NATO CBRN commander, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE has predicted.

The retired colonel compared this possible scenario with that of Syria in previous years, and suggested that NATO precision-guided weapons could even be targeted inside internationally-recognised Russian borders.

He told Express.co.uk: “If Russia did detonate a tactical nuclear weapon in the Black Sea, or somewhere, the overwhelming conventional response again would be precision-guided missiles, cruise missiles, very much like in Syria after the chemical attacks in 2018 and 2019.

“The UK and the US and France attacked key strategic Syrian command and control positions and, in that case, chemical weapons facilities.”

The retired colonel added: “I hope that sometime very soon, Wallace and his American counterparts are going to tell the Russians that.”

He then argued: “I think if Putin does use a tactical nuclear weapon, he’s finished.

“And I expect he probably knows that.”

As reports swirled that Putin could detonate a nuclear warhead in the Black Sea, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace rushed to Washington for urgent meetings with US leaders.

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Downing Street said on Wednesday that the Russian leader would face “severe consequences” if nuclear weapons were used, but skirted around the reason for the Defence Secretary’s  visit.

A spokesperson for No 10 said: “We are very clear with Putin that the use of nuclear weapons will lead to severe consequences.”

They added: “I would guide away from speculating on this as an issue. I think the public need to be reassured that we are taking a strong lead in this area.”

Christoph Bluth, professor of international relations and security at the University of Bradford, theorised that any form of limited nuclear strike will have a rehearsed response, but that it is in doubt precisely what this response from NATO would be.

The UK, US, and wider NATO countries would first consider “the measured response”, he told Express.co.uk, and Washington would “look like fools if they didn’t do something decisive”.

Putin had said in September that Russia’s “territorial integrity” would be defended by nuclear weapons, having claimed Moscow would retain the annexed regions “forever”.

Following the initial invasion in February, Putin put Moscow’s nuclear arsenal on high alert and issued barely-veiled threats to those countries looking to “interfere” in the conflict.

He said as the invasion began: “To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history.”

He then added: “Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of a significant part of its nuclear potential, is today one of the most powerful nuclear powers.

“And moreover, it has certain advantages in a number of the latest types of weapons.

“In this regard, no one should have any doubt that a direct attack on Russia will lead to defeat and dire consequences for a potential aggressor.”

But he has also insisted there could be “no winners” if the Ukraine war turned nuclear, in what appeared to be a climbdown from Moscow as nuclear fears rose.

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