On Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a wide-ranging public war update during a televised session of his Human Rights Council, which at least one independent regional outlet said was tightly controlled in terms of the kind of questions Kremlin officials could ask.
Among the more important topics he addressed related to the now 10-month long "special military operation" in Ukraine was future plans for broader mobilization and the prospect of deployment of nuclear assets. On the latter point, Putin lashed out at the United States and NATO, saying "Russia does not have tactical nuclear weapons in other countries, unlike the US."
This was in reference to the fact that some NATO members in Europe, including extending as far east as Turkey, do act as host countries to many of the US' tactical nukes under the NATO defense umbrella. "Our nuclear forces are in a more advanced state than any other country in the world," he boasted at one point.
Importantly, given the ratcheting US-NATO arms pipeline to Ukraine's forces, which has lately involved transfer of increasingly sophisticated and longer range missiles, Putin warned that the "risk of nuclear war in the world is rising."
He further took the opportunity to restate Russia's 'defensive' nuclear doctrine, stressing that nuclear weapons would be considered as a response to an attack on Russian territory, while also stating that he stands ready to defend Russian territory "using all available means".
According to a translation of Putin's remarks in Sky News:
"We didn't speak about usage of nuclear weapons." Then, he said: "Russia has not gone mad."
"We have the most advanced weapons, but we do not want to wave it around."
But in taking a swipe at Washington's nuclear deployments in Europe, he seemed to suggest that it's precisely the US side doing the nuclear saber-rattling.
"Yes, we will do this by various ways and means. First of all, of course, we will focus on peaceful means, but if nothing else remains, we will defend ourselves with all the means at our disposal," Putin said.
Western mainstream media will more than likely run with the comments as a fresh "threat" that Russia stands ready to conduct a nuclear attack if cornered in Ukraine, and yet just like the previous time he made similar statements, the Russian leader was in fact articulating the defensive nature of the country's official nuclear policy against 'existential' threats to Russian territory.
Putin at the meeting with Human Rights council of Russia: the threat of nuclear war is increasing, but Russia will not use the nuclear weapons first, however it will not use the nuclear weapons second, because it will not be possible after nuclear strike at Russia pic.twitter.com/IrgLe9EWiM— Liveuamap (@Liveuamap) December 7, 2022
Among the more important new commentary from Putin, however, was the following:
In rare comments on the status of the war, Mr Putin admitted it would likely be a "long process" - suggesting Russia has no plans to abandon the conflict any time soon.
Last month into this month has already seen some ambiguous signals from Washington that the Biden administration could be ready to at least contemplate pushing Kiev to the negotiating table. Moscow too has said it remains "open" to talks - however, Putin's projection of a "long" conflict strongly suggests the warring sides are nowhere close to establishing a process for ceasefire dialogue.
Elsewhere in the Human Rights Council meeting with top officials, Putin sought to quash persistent rumors of a second military mobilization across society next year. He expressed there was no need, after the prior 300,000 reservists which were called up for Ukraine operations.
He emphasized determination to see the operation through to achieve previously stated goals: "Russia could be the only guarantor of Ukraine's territorial integrity. But it's up to the new leaders of Ukraine," Putin said.