Home » Russian spy chief blames West for nuclear tension

Russian spy chief blames West for nuclear tension

by Mahmmod Shar

By Steve Rosenberg

Western leaders have expressed concern about the scale of nuclear sabre-rattling over Ukraine by senior Russian officials, including President Putin, especially after February’s invasion.

How does Moscow react to charges it is engaging in such rhetoric and threats?

I asked one of Russia’s most powerful officials, Sergei Naryshkin, head of the SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, to respond to international criticism.

He denied any Russian nuclear rhetoric, even though there’s been plenty.

Mr Naryshkin pointed the finger back at the West.

“Will you state categorically that Russia will not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine or engage in other provocative actions, such as exploding a dirty bomb, or blowing up a dam?” I asked Mr Naryshkin.

Russia’s spy chief didn’t answer the question directly. “We are, of course, very concerned about Western rhetoric about the possibility of using nuclear weapons,” Sergei Naryshkin responded.

“Yesterday Russia’s defence minister talked by phone with his colleagues from Turkey, the US and France. He told them about the possible plans of the Ukrainian leadership to use a so-called ‘dirty nuclear bomb’,” Mr Naryshkin continued.

“But there is no evidence to back up that claim,” I pointed out.

On Sunday the UK, US and French governments issued a joint statement on the Russian government’s claims. They rejected what they called “Russia’s transparently false allegations” against Kyiv, adding: “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation. We further reject any pretext for escalation by Russia.”

I was speaking to Sergei Naryshkin at the opening of an exhibition at the Russian Army Museum.

It is a sobering experience – an exhibition that transports you back to a time when the world was on the edge of nuclear Armageddon.

It marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. On the wall there is a giant photograph of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and US President John F Kennedy. There are images of the Soviet missiles Moscow sent to Cuba, and which the Kennedy White House demanded the Kremlin remove.

In the eyes of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, what are the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis?

According to Sergei Naryshkin, “the lesson of the Cuban Missile crisis is that political leaders must find the inner strength to reach compromises to resolve global issues.”

True, Kennedy and Khrushchev reached a compromise to end a potentially fatal situation. Kennedy pledged to remove American missiles from Turkey after Khrushchev promised to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba.

But six decades later, Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia, shows no sign of being willing to make concessions. Concern over a potential nuclear conflict is present once more.

Despite this, the conflict in Ukraine is very dissimilar to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Kremlin leader invaded a neighboring, sovereign state back in February, starting an eight-month war. President Putin still appears committed to achieving some sort of victory, both over Ukraine and against the West, despite significant setbacks on the battlefield.

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