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Putin and the Apocalypse

Over the last year, Russia's president has spoken about a “nuclear apocalypse” more than any Western leader has over the last decade, causing some to speculate that he may be threatening NATO and the US. But Putin's invocation of religious language suggests that his nuclear warnings may actually have little to do with the West.

ATLANTA – At the end of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had completed final testing of an “invincible” new hypersonic nuclear-capable missile, the “Avangard,” calling it “the best New Year gift” for his country. With Putin seeming to up the ante on his increasingly frequent doomsday rhetoric, should the world be bracing itself for a nuclear conflict?

In the last year, Putin has spoken about a “nuclear apocalypse” more than any Western leader has over the last decade, causing some to speculate that he may be threatening NATO and the United States. But Putin has blamed the risk of a catastrophic outcome on the West, framing Russia’s hypothetical use of nuclear weapons as revenge or retaliation.

Last March, for example, during his presidential address to the Federal Assembly, Putin cited “those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia,” and introduced “illegal” restrictions and sanctions aimed at “restraining” Russia’s development, including that of its military. All of them, Putin declared, should “stop rocking the boat we are all in and which is called the Earth.”

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