Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is warning of nuclear war if Russia is not victorious in Ukraine. He said if forces, including NATO, were successful and “tore off part of our land; then we would be forced to use a nuclear weapon, according to the rules of a decree from the President of Russia.” It is thought he was referring to Russian policy that it will use nuclear arms if the existence of the Russian state is directly and imminently threatened.
Medvedev added that the world should therefore pray for a Russian victory.
In an interview with Associated Press, the former President additionally said he believes the threat of nuclear annihilation has grown since the start of the conflict and gets closer each time the West provides arms or funds to Ukrainian forces.
He referred to Ukraine as “part of Russia,” thereby raising the possibility that some figures in Moscow could consider Ukrainian independence a threat to the existence of Russia or its national integrity.
Once seen by Western liberals as more amicable and pro-Western than Putin, Medvedev served as President from 2008 to 2012. Since the beginning of the current conflict, his rhetoric has become hawkish and more hardline than most Kremlin officials. He has ruled out any discussion of talks with Western leaders and said most are incompetent and uneducated.
He described President Biden as “a strange grandfather with dementia” and European leaders as “lunatics.” Medvedev currently serves as deputy head of Russia’s security council and has said he would happily see Ukraine wiped from the map.
Ekaterina Schulmann, a Russian political scientist at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, says Medvedev has adopted the hostile stance in order to gain favor with President Putin and keep himself relevant in a tension-filled Moscow. “He’s trying to save himself from political oblivion by out-Heroding Herod, and consequently posturing as a candidate in a Kremlin Apprentice show,” she said.