LONDON (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear deterrent alert is rhetoric designed to distract from the invasion of Ukraine and not linked practical steps to increase readiness to use the weapons, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Monday.
Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert on Sunday, which the United States said served to escalate the war with “dangerous rhetoric”.
“He’s made this comment. We keep it under review,” Wallace told Sky News after Putin said he was putting Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert.
“But you know, what we shouldn’t really forget is that this is a big attempt to distract away from his troubles in Ukraine by just deploying into the sort of media space these phrases.”
Wallace said that Putin had behaved irrationally in deciding to invade Ukraine, and he wasn’t going to get into speculation about what Putin would do next, adding that the West would maintain a state of readiness.
But he added that, while Putin had ordered deterrence forces – which wield nuclear weapons – onto high alert, Britain believed that the command served largely a rhetorical purpose, and that Putin did not want to use them.
“The language that President Putin has used doesn’t actually link to anything off a Russia readiness procedure. It’s really, we assess, him putting the deterrent into the communication space, reminding people that he has a deterrent,” Wallace said.
“It doesn’t link to anything specific in their readiness structures of their forces.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)