HomeWestern Balkans Anti-Disinformation HUBPutin’s Russian Roulette - Pressure for Nuclear War with NATO

Putin’s Russian Roulette – Pressure for Nuclear War with NATO

Jona Plumbi

Key Findings

  • NATO targeted in Russian disinformation campaign:

Moscow has revived accusations that NATO is gearing up for nuclear strikes against Russia, a narrative continually echoed in the media.

  • Recycled propaganda from Russian generals

Statements by Russian military leaders are utilized to reinforce the domestic narrative that Russia is encircled by the West, preparing its people for a protracted conflict.

  • ‘Nuclear’ threats wielded by Russia as Western coercion

Putin and other Russian officials leverage nuclear threats to exert pressure on Western nations

  • Russia’s strategic crises and election cycles for disinformation

Following the commencement of hostilities in Ukraine and amidst electoral periods, like those for the European Parliament, there has been a surge in dissemination of these narratives in media

Recent allegations by Moscow against NATO regarding potential nuclear strikes have been prominently featured in Albanian print and broadcast media, perpetuating an antiquated and implausible storyline.

Moscow: NATO Preparing for Nuclear Strikes Against Russia– reported media outlets, quoting the head of the Federation’s Border Intelligence Service in an interview with Ria Novosti. The news swiftly circulated, recycling accusatory narratives against the Euro-Atlantic alliance, often lacking contextualization or historical perspective on previous claims.

Statements of this nature are increasingly frequent, particularly since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022.

The narrative that the West and Russia are engaged in a war has become commonplace in Russia, according to international relations expert Ledion Krisafi.

‘Russia portrays this as a conflict between a ‘degenerate’, ‘immoral’ West and a ‘holy’, ‘traditional’, ‘conservative’ Russia, positioning itself as the last stronghold of values that Russia believes the West has abandoned or forgotten.’ He highlights how remarks from Russian generals serve to reinforce this narrative, depicting Russia as surrounded by NATO and the West, and preparing its people for a potentially prolonged and direct conflict.’ explains Krisafi.

Agim Nesho, former Albanian Ambassador to the United Nations, tells Faktoje that Russia and Putin often mention nuclear weapons and their potential use as it is the only means by which Russia can threaten the world.

Therefore, during crises, Putin or his generals always resort to nuclear threats. It’s purely a tactic of pressure.’– evaluates Nesho, reminding us that while Russia poses political risks to the West due to its policies, it cannot compete economically.

Russia today poses a geopolitical risk to the West because of its revisionist policies aimed at reshaping the international order away from legal and institutional frameworks towards a system based on power dynamics and spheres of influence. However, economically, Russia does not measure up to the West,  with a GDP smaller than California or several European states.’Nesho emphasizes.

Krisafi further elaborates that despite crossing the ‘red lines’ around the conflict in Ukraine — such as Ukraine using Western-supplied weapons to strike within Russian territory — NATO’s exercises near the Russian border do not suggest any intention to attack Russia, let alone with nuclear weapons.

‘NATO’s exercises near the Russian border are a reaction to Russia’s nuclear threats, not the other way around. The remarks by the Russian general are aimed at the Russian population, serving internal purposes to enhance mobilization and prepare them for a possible future conflict with NATO.’ – analyzed Krisafi.

History of Russian Nuclear Threats

Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently discussed nuclear threats, which have varied in intensity and context, often tied to Russia’s military challenges or strategic goals.

Shortly after the invasion commenced on February 27, 2022, Putin announced that Russian nuclear forces were placed on ‘special combat readiness.’ This was a significant escalation, though the Pentagon did not report immediate changes in Russia’s nuclear posture.

Throughout 2022, Putin, along with other Russian officials like Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and former President Dmitry Medvedev, often hinted at the potential use of nuclear weapons if Russia perceived threats to its territorial integrity.  For instance, in September 2022, during a speech regarding the annexation of Ukrainian territories, Putin emphasized that Russia would employ ‘all available means’ to defend these regions, including implying the use of nuclear options and asserting that this was not mere ‘bluff.’ 

Russian state media also played a role in amplifying these threats, such as through simulations of nuclear strikes against Western nations like the United Kingdom.

However, these threats notably decreased towards the end of 2022. This shift was likely influenced by international responses, including from China, which did not endorse nuclear threats, and practical considerations within Russia regarding the repercussions of such escalation.

In summary, Putin’s nuclear threats have been numerous and strategically timed to coincide with pivotal moments in the conflict, serving as both a deterrent against the West and a political instrument.

Putin’s recent statement dismissing claims of a potential Russian attack on NATO as absurd underscores that the narrative of using nuclear weapons obscures other underlying motives.


The mention of a potential nuclear conflict between the West and Russia has evolved into a political maneuver.  Since the onset of the Ukraine conflict, especially Russia has reintroduced this possibility to the ‘table’ with the aim of pressuring the West to refrain from intervening. According to experts, Russia reiterates this narrative during crises and elections, as it remains the only means through which Russia can threaten and unsettle the West.


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