Klimkin: Putin's nuclear threats are at their highest level, so is NATO's response. Interview

Putin has resorted to complex nuclear blackmail, how the West will respond

A draft resolution has appeared in the US Senate that proposes to treat Russia's use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine as aggression against NATO, with corresponding consequences. This is further evidence that the danger posed to the world today by the Putin regime in the Russian Federation is very great indeed. The Kremlin is resorting to complex nuclear blackmail, and this is the first such case in history. It has many options for applying its "last argument". In particular, it is not only about undermining the Zaporizhzhia NPP, but also about catastrophic decrease of the plant's safety.

This situation could have been avoided if the West had realised in time that Russia is fundamentally different from the civilised world both in its values and the way it acts. The Western political community began the process of "curing" itself of false narratives but even today the West can give the aggressor a clear answer to its threats. This opinion in an exclusive interview with OBOZREVATEL was expressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in 2014-2019 Pavlo Klimkin.

- A draft resolution has been registered in the US Senate stating that Russia's use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine would be considered an attack on NATO. Does this initiative indicate that the danger is very serious indeed?

- Of course there is a danger. The use of nuclear weapons by the Russian regime is certainly possible, although we all regard it as unlikely. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.

We also understand that though the Russian leadership is rational, its rationality is different from ours. Also, their value systems, or lack thereof, are fundamentally different from ours. Therefore, the threat should be assessed as real. It does not mean it should be feared, but it should be perceived as a challenge and as a risk.

This resolution is not only important in itself. It is important as the beginning of a real political discussion about security assurances. Because the draft resolution states that any use of nuclear weapons against us should be seen as actually using nuclear weapons against the West. So what Finland and Sweden got on their way to NATO has started to be discussed.

By no means am I saying that guarantees for Ukraine will be in the same wording, but this is already a political start of such a discussion in Washington.

Another important point: the constant blackmail and the attempt to support the discussion in Russia about the possibility of using nuclear weapons and the fact that articles are being directed and generated there about the possibility of using nuclear weapons first - all this has had its answer. The attempt to divide the politician, the people, the society and to impose the logic of fear on it leads to just such an answer.

Hence, there are three crucial points about the draft resolution.

- If the resolution is passed, will it have enough legal force to oblige NATO to act if Putin uses nuclear weapons?

- No, legally no, but politically yes. This is where the political push is also very important. It will mean that first there is bipartisan agreement and eventually, I hope, a bipartisan consensus when other politicians join the resolution. That the blackmail with nuclear weapons must be met with a tough response.

What the Kremlin is doing today is really comprehensive nuclear blackmail. This is blackmail for the use of nuclear weapons, blackmail around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. That is all aspects are included. In my opinion this is the first time in the world history - and I`m not exaggerating at all - when somebody tries to deploy the line of the complex nuclear blackmail both in relation to us and in relation to the West and, by the way, not in relation to the West. Now (June 23) the Indian prime minister is in Washington and the nuclear issue is one of the key ones there as well.

- One of the authors of this initiative, Lindsey Graham, stressed that this is a message to Putin's entourage. Why to the entourage and not to the aggressor himself?

- Because there are those who give the orders and those who carry them out. And the latter are no less responsible.

When we are talking about responsibility of Russia and Russians, of course all those who have not taken a clear position are directly responsible. Of course it is different. We cannot send all of Russia to The Hague, but we can certainly send all those who have carried out criminal orders. Also, everybody should understand that the game with nuclear weapons is a game that is very dangerous indeed.

It will definitely cause the West to respond in an increasingly tough and targeted manner. Because this blackmail is first of all blackmail against the West. Because the Russian leadership believes that they are waging a proxy war against the West. They still have failed to understand that Ukraine is Ukraine and not some non-Russia or anti-Russia.

Nor have they been able to understand that for the West, for its existence, a certain system of values is what defines it. No value system - no West. And the attempt to divide the West is very present in this blackmail. And now it is also the moment of truth for the West.

- You said about the complex nuclear blackmail, which we see for the first time in world history. There are two options for the aggressor: to blow up Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant or to strike from the territory of Belarus. Which, in your opinion, poses a greater threat?

- I deliberately do not want to speculate, but I want to say that actually there are much more options. A strike is also possible from the territory of Russia. It could be organized as a provocation. And Russia could do more than just an explosion on the territory of ZNPP, it could destroy ZNPP in such a way that fundamentally diminishes the safety of this plant. Unfortunately, the Russian regime has a lot of options and combinations of them.

We must not say: if you do this, we will do that. The answer must be the one and the only one that will actually show Russia that it is at direct war with the West, understanding that it threatens its very existence. The answer must be formulated in this way.

- The same authors of the resolution we are talking about stated that today the risk of the use of nuclear weapons is the highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Do you think it was possible to prevent this, to resolve this issue earlier? In particular, we remember how for years Europe flirted with Putin and tried to reason with the insane aggressor.

- Of course. I stress this all the time when I talk both to my Western friends and to those who are still trying to look for reasons. In fact the Putin regime would not have been possible without the existence of the idea in part of the West that let's make money off each other and this will be the guarantee of our security. In fact it created this regime, created a fundamental danger and led to assessments and judgements that were fundamentally wrong.

I remember my discussions personally with Merkel, who in 2015, when the war had already started, tried to pretend that "Nord Stream 2" was a purely economic project. Some people in Germany harshly perceived what we were saying both publicly and in the media, that it was in fact a purely political project. And this is how the Russian regime is operating.

But the inability to understand the depth of the hostility and the fundamentally different vision of what humanity, what values in general are, was unfortunately present in the West. It is still partly present today. The West is only in the process of healing. It has not yet done the work on its mistakes, it has just begun. The process is at the very beginning, especially in Europe.

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