Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council and key ally of President Vladimir Putin, on Thursday warned that defeat for Russia in Ukraine could lead to nuclear war.
The former Russian president made the threat in a Telegram post ahead of a key meeting of NATO allies and other nations, at which they are expected to make additional pledges of military support to Kyiv.
“The loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Medvedev wrote.
“Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends.
“This should be obvious to anyone. Even to a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence.”
Medvedev, who served as president of Russia from 2008 to 2012, has struck a bellicose tone during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, repeatedly raising the specter of nuclear conflict.
Last April, he warned of Russian nuclear expansion should Sweden and Finland join NATO, and in September said strategic nuclear weapons could be used to defend territories incorporated into Russia from Ukraine.
His remarks Thursday, while no doubt intended to intimidate NATO partners, also appear to be a rare admission from a senior Russian official that the Kremlin could potentially lose in Ukraine as Moscow’s faltering invasion approaches the 11-month mark.
The nuclear rhetoric also comes just days after Moscow said it is planning to increase its armed forces due to the “proxy war” it says the West is waging in Ukraine.
On Friday, NATO’s Ukraine Defense Contact Group will gather in Germany for a meeting at the US’ Ramstein Air Base, hosted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, focusing on more military aid for Ukraine.
The Pentagon on Thursday announced a $2.5 billion Ukraine security package as the US and its European allies debate whether to send increasingly sophisticated weaponry to Kyiv, including longer-range missiles that would allow Ukraine to hit targets as far as 200 miles away.