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In his 2022-09-21 speech (archived copy with https here), Putin referred to

statements made by some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO countries on the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons – against Russia.

I've looked for such statements (mostly on pro-Russian sites) and haven't found any obvious candidates.

Sites I've checked include: kremlin.ru, washington.mid.ru, rusemb.org.uk, tass.com, ria.ru, rt.com, russia-insider.com, sputniknews.com, wsws.org, journal-neo.org, schillerinstitute.com, consortiumnews.com, thegrayzone.com, strategic-culture.org, globalresearch.ca, thesaker.is. My main search term was "russia nuclear" (without quotation marks).

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    Well, it's probably on par with "“Today our armed forces” are fighting against “the entire military machine of the collective West.”" (as wsws.org quoted him apparently from the same speech.) I expect it to be more figurative than true ad litteram. Oct 2, 2022 at 21:21
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    Strictly speaking, even someone saying "it is impossible and not admissible" would be making a statement on the possibility and admissibility Oct 3, 2022 at 12:39
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    You don't have nukes without threatening to use them under certain circumstances. That should be obvious to all concerned.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 5, 2022 at 11:46
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    @RonJohn That is in some sense true, but it's not an answer to the question. An extreme example is Israel, who has never admitted to having nukes and therefore has never made statements threatening to use them.
    – prosfilaes
    Oct 5, 2022 at 16:55

4 Answers 4

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The only recent one that comes to mind is Liz Truss's latest answer to the question if she would be ready to use nuclear if needed from August 24. But if that's what he's referring to, it's a twisting of her words — she's not commenting on a strategy regarding Russia, but rather on the potential use of nukes in general.

Also, notice Putin's wording here: he's commenting on "the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction" in general. That doesn't mean that NATO would be the first to strike, but rather that they're open to using them if worst comes to worst — e.g. if Russia uses them first. While Putin's trying to imply NATO could nuke Russia first, he might just be referring to statements about NATO using nukes in response to Russia using nukes and keeping his wording intentionally vague.

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    This is probably one of things Putin alluded to since SouthFront covered it southfront.org/… ... with reactions like "In Moscow, as expected, Liz Truss’ imprudent statement was responded with severe condemnation by spokespeople. [...] The most impressive thing is that this is not the first time that Truss has caused international tensions with her irresponsible and bellicose speeches." Oct 3, 2022 at 0:38
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    And this answer of her is basically irrelevant anyway: She HAS to give this answer in order for the UKs nuclear deterrence to hold any kind of weight & value. Any other answer would've been simply the wrong one, no matter her actual beliefs
    – Hobbamok
    Oct 4, 2022 at 9:19
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There are no official declarations but it looks like in case of Russia using nuclear weapon on Ukraine, USA plans to enter the war and destroy the Russian army in this country. Also, to sink the Black Sea fleet. USA still does not think to attack the territory of Russia itself, with any weapons. Mind that "Russia itself" is likely that USA officially recognizes, so without Crimea, etc.

This information comes from the former CIA director and retired four-star army general. It is not the official declaration but may be more reliable than explanations of Russian politicians that vary from "nuclear strike" till D. Medvedev assumes that says "will not be doing anything".

Meduza recently published a big overview, citing several other Western analytics. Looks like they are more in consensus that non-nuclear weapons would be the more preferred response to even nuclear strike from the Russian side (over Ukraine). Nuclear weapons may not be so efficient against the modern army where soldiers are seldom concentrated in one location.

So probably not. UK or France could theoretically attack, but without USA joining, unlikely. There is a known fake that UK once promised nuclear weapons for Ukraine. It is totally groundless and based on manually edited unofficial YouTube video. The full length version of this video includes a clear statement that it is not so.

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    To be fair, the "former CIA director and retired four-star army general" doesn't hold any positions of power and is therefore now at liberty to say whatever he wants. That doesn't really indicate what the US "plans" to do.
    – bazzilic
    Oct 3, 2022 at 7:07
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    "the territory of Russia itself" might be tricky. What the USA considers as "the territory of Russia itself" and what Russia considers as such, are likely different.
    – vsz
    Oct 3, 2022 at 8:12
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    It is very clear that USA considers the territory of Russia itself. It does not include Crimea or any other disputed parts of Ukraine.
    – Stančikas
    Oct 3, 2022 at 8:40
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    Here is the relevant fragment of the interview with Petraeus, in case you want to add it to the answer: youtu.be/6h--3wTmLSw?t=170 . In any case, he makes clear that this is not based on inside knowledge but just a hypothetical response that NATO could be considering if Russia uses tactical nukes.
    – Marc
    Oct 3, 2022 at 14:39
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    @bazzilic "Hey David. We must catch up sometime soon. For now, we have a message we want conveyed in an absolutely deniable unofficial manner, with no doubt whatsoever that we Joe has authorised it. Youre the obvious man to make it. ... " Oct 4, 2022 at 7:52
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OP answering own question.


Background

According to the most recent (2022-03) statement I could find, the 2022 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) has been submitted to Congress but not yet declassified. The DoD media release says,

the President [Biden] has articulated his vision for U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy: As long as nuclear weapons exist, the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners. The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.

(my emphasis).


Candidate 1

In a 2022-09-25 interview (transcript here) with CBS's "Face the Nation", US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the following.

We have communicated directly, privately, at very high levels to the Kremlin that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia

If Putin took 'catastrophic consequences for Russia' as clearly implying the use of strategic nuclear weapons against the Russian heartland in the event that Russia used tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, which is 'only' a US partner or ally, perhaps this would give the provocative sense Putin seems to have in mind.

ETA: @Fizz rightly points out that Sullivan's interview occurred after Putin's speech, so Putin couldn't have been referring to the interview, but perhaps could have been referring to the private communications Sullivan mentions, if those occurred before Putin's speech, which we don't know.

On the other hand, if Putin had read such a meaning into US DoD statements on US nuclear posture, Sullivan's statement indicates that such a reading was justified.


Candidate 2

In a 2021-12-07 interview with Fox News, US Senator and Senate Committee on Armed Services member Roger Wicker said, contemplating the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,

We don't rule out first-use nuclear [by the US against Russia].

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    But wasn't Sullivan's speech from the 25th while Putin's from the 21st? So Putin's couldn't have directly referred to something that yet to happen? Unless Putin was talking about the private warnings, which may have been given earlier. Oct 3, 2022 at 13:13
  • @Fizz Good point.
    – mjc
    Oct 3, 2022 at 13:18
  • Inasmuch as the Biden administration has practically made a sport of repudiating as many Trump administration actions and policy positions as it can find, it is by no means clear that the Biden defense posture is well described by the 2018 (Trump era) posture review. Oct 4, 2022 at 14:24
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    @JohnBollinger I've updated my answer with a Biden-era source.
    – mjc
    Oct 4, 2022 at 15:33
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As recently as March 2022, the White House declared its terms in their National Defense Strategy (NDS). A short commentary can be found in a short piece from "Arms Control Today" (ACT):

Biden’s policy declares that the “fundamental role” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is to deter a nuclear attack, but will still leave open the option that nuclear weapons could be used in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners,” officials told ACT.

So the US stance on nuclear usage mirrors the Russian one, since Russia stated that they consider the Crimean peninsula to be a "vital interest" of theirs.

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  • Russia stated that Crimea is "vital interest": please find reference.
    – EarlGrey
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:17
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    You're the one making that claim, it's your responsibility to find a reference for it. Unless I misunderstood what you intended to write when I made my edit, in which case, feel free to edit it again to clarify what you actually intended to claim.
    – F1Krazy
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:22
  • @F1Krazy I am not referring to you, but to anyone (and to myself). As far as I know, Putin declaration of Crimean peninsula as vital interest for Russia can as well be an urban myth, well known by large swath of western population, but unfortunately the truth is not democratic (see how much the only chinese party dislikes independent reporting) and I do not have a reference to the actual claim.
    – EarlGrey
    Oct 5, 2022 at 6:51
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    @EarlGrey The expression 'vital interest' doesn't appear in Russia's nuclear deterrence policy. However, it does list 'territorial integrity of the state' as one of its aims, and the Russian government regards Crimea as part of the territory of the Russian Federation. The US posture is somewhat more permissive in that it extends not only to allies but also to 'partners'.
    – mjc
    Oct 5, 2022 at 15:56

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