Alexander Stubb, who assumed lead office in Finland from 2014 to 2015, responded to a question from Andrew Marr concerning whether Putin’s threats of nuclear retaliation against the West were “mere bluster”. Mr Stubb said that he believed that Putin was “many things but I don’t think he is suicidal”. He was referencing the warning of mutually-assured destruction, where opposing forces have nuclear offensive capability, such as Russia and the USA, and thus prevent each other from making use of it.
Mr Stubb said: “Well, you always have to take threats seriously, especially when they come from Russia.
“Having said that, the steps to some kind of nuclear escalation, I think, are quite a few and far between.
“In the sense that first you have conventional, then you have chemical and then you have nuclear.
“Putin is many things but I don’t think he is suicidal. I think everyone, including the Russian military, the Russian oligarchs and Russian cronies to Putin, knows there is no point going there.”
Putin and his Russian officials have made an increasing number of references to nuclear retaliation against the West should they continue to supply weapons to Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Putin told politicians in St Petersburg: ‘If someone intends to interfere in what is going on from the outside, they must know that constitutes an unacceptable strategic threat to Russia.
‘We have all the weapons we need for this. No one else can brag about these weapons, and we won’t brag about them. But we will use them.
Russia tested the new Sarmat missile, dubbed “Satan 2” by the West, which has the nuclear capability to wipe out Great Britain twice over, just last week.
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Maria Zakharova, who speaks for the Russian foreign ministry, hinted that Russia believes it is within their rights to attack anyone that supplies Ukraine’s war efforts, including the UK.
She said: “Do we understand correctly that for the sake of disrupting the logistics of military supplies, Russia can strike military targets on the territory of those Nato countries that supply arms to the Kyiv regime?
“After all, this directly leads to deaths and bloodshed on Ukrainian territory. As far as I understand, Britain is one of those countries.”
But Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissed the threats as evidence that Russia is losing faith in their own chances of victory, saying: “This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine.”
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NATO allies have now pledged and provided more than $8 billion (£6.4 billion) by way of military support to Ukraine.
And NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, having just separately met with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that more applications to the alliance will be “warmly welcomed”.
He said: “It’s their decision. But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect that process to go quickly.”
With public support for joining NATO growing, it is believed the two nations could apply as soon as mid-May, and Mr Stoltenberg has promised to offer protection from Russian intimidation in the meantime.