'Yes, he would': Fiona Hill discusses Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons

'Yes, he would': Fiona Hill discusses Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons
Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2021, Wikimedia Commons

Fiona Hill, the former Senior Director for Europe and Russia at the United States National Security Council, believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly erratic and emotional thundering should be taken seriously. This includes his escalating threats to use nuclear weapons, Hill said in an interview with Politico on Monday.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is the most significant military operation in Europe since World War II. And Hill believes that the third global conflict has already begun.

“Sadly, we are treading back through old historical patterns that we said that we would never permit to happen again,” Hill told Politico Senior Editor Maura Reynolds.

“Ukraine has become the front line in a struggle, not just between democracies and autocracies but in a struggle for maintaining a rules-based system in which the things that countries want are not taken by force,” Hill said. “Every country in the world should be paying close attention to this.”

Hill said that Putin’s recent behavior suggests that he is in a precarious mental state.

“Putin is usually more cynical and calculated than he came across in his most recent speeches. There’s evident visceral emotion in things that he said in the past few weeks justifying the war in Ukraine,” she explained. “The pretext is completely flimsy and almost nonsensical for anybody who’s not in the echo chamber or the bubble of propaganda in Russia itself. I mean, demanding to the Ukrainian military that they essentially overthrow their own government or lay down their arms and surrender because they are being commanded by a bunch of drug-addled Nazi fascists? There’s just no sense to that. It beggars the imagination.”

Putin, Hill continued, is “not looking so great, he’s been rather puffy-faced. We know that he has complained about having back issues. Even if it’s not something worse than that, it could be that he’s taking high doses of steroids, or there may be something else. There seems to be an urgency for this that may be also driven by personal factors.”

Hill added that while the risk of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the West remains an unlikely scenario that it is “important not to have any illusions” about how far Putin will go to get what he wants – or, more ominously, if he does not. That includes the potential deployment of atomic bombs, with which Putin has been taunting the West.

“Every time you think, ’No, he wouldn’t, would he?’ Well, yes, he would,” Hill said. “And he wants us to know that, of course. It’s not that we should be intimidated and scared…. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what is it that we’re going to do to head them off.”

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