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Picture: 123RF/xiongwu5
Picture: 123RF/xiongwu5

Nikolai Patrushev, a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Wednesday the “destructive” policies of the US and its allies were increasing the risk that nuclear, chemical or biological weapons would be used.

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and the post-Cold War arms control architecture has crumbled.

The West says the war in Ukraine is a Russian imperial-style land grab. The Kremlin says the conflict is part of a broader struggle with a declining West, which it accuses of sowing chaos around the world to try to maintain its dominance.

Patrushev said the post-Cold War order, including the dominance of the US, is waning.

“The natural consequence of the US’ destructive policies is the deterioration in global security,” Patrushev was quoted by state news agency Tass as telling colleagues from a grouping of former Soviet republics.

“The risk that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons will be used is increasing,” he said. “The international arms control regime has been undermined.”

Patrushev gave no specific details of where weapons of mass destruction might be used, but accused Washington of failing to bring peace to the Middle East and of escalating the war in Ukraine by supporting Kyiv.

Patrushev, 72, is a former KGB officer who has known Putin since the 1970s when they worked together in the Soviet security service. His remarks offer an insight into the thinking at the top of the Kremlin elite.

His comments followed US criticism of a Russian decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, a post-Cold War security agreement. Washington said the decision showed Moscow’s disregard for arms control, and US officials have warned that Russia could use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, a suggestion that Putin has played down.

Putin hawk

The war in Ukraine has boosted the influence of hawks in the Kremlin such as Patrushev, who view the Soviet collapse as a disaster and the US as a malign influence.

As secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Patrushev is at the heart of foreign and security policy decision making.

“The Anglo-Saxons and the collective West as a whole are losing influence,” Patrushev said, accusing the West of trying to destabilise the situation in countries that steered an independent course.

The US casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat. President Joe Biden has said this century will be defined by an existential contest between democracies and autocracies.

Patrushev said the West had for years been preparing Ukraine for war with Russia, and that Ukraine had tried to attack Russian nuclear power stations, including the Leningrad, Kalinin and Kursk plants.

“On October 26, a Ukrainian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] hit a nuclear waste warehouse on the territory of the Kursk Nuclear Power Station,” Patrushev was shown saying on state television.

Reuters could not verify his assertions, for which he offered no specific evidence. Ukraine didn’t immediately comment.


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