“I think it has been very useful that PM Modi in India and President Xi Jinping in China raised their concerns about the use of nuclear weapons. I think that’s also having an impact on the Russians,” Burns said in an interview with PBS.
With Ukraine launching an offensive and taking back some territory that was captured by Russia, President Vladimir Putin has in recent weeks made some overt warnings about using “all means” to protect Moscow’s sovereignty.
Threat of nuclear war
Burns remarks come on the heels of Putin admitting that the conflict in Ukraine was “going to take a while.” He also warned of the “increasing” threat of nuclear war.
In his address at the meeting of Russia’s Human Rights Council at the Kremlin, Putin said that Russia will fight by “all available means” at its disposal, according to CNN. Putin said that he considered Moscow’s nuclear arsenal as a ‘deterrent rather than a provocation.’
“As for the idea that Russia wouldn’t use such weapons first under any circumstances, then it means we wouldn’t be able to be the second to use them either – because the possibility to do so in case of an attack on our territory would be very limited,” CNN quoted Putin as saying.
“I think the saber-rattling is meant to intimidate. We don’t see any clear evidence today of plans to use tactical nuclear weapons,” Burns said.
According to the CNN report, Putin — without categorically ruling out the first use of nuclear weapons — said he viewed the Russian nuclear arsenal as a deterrent rather than a provocation. He said the country considers the use of nuclear weapons for defence. “That is, when we are struck, we strike in response,” he said.
The Russian leader said that the United States’ nuclear weapons were located in large numbers on European soil, while Russia had not transferred its nuclear weapons to other territories and is not planning to do so, but “will protect its allies with all the means at its disposal, if necessary”.
India’s consistent line
Many world leaders, including PM Modi, have recently held telephonic or in-person talks with Putin to encourage a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
On December 16, PM Modi told Putin over the phone that dialogue and diplomacy was the “only way forward”.
During their in-person meeting in Samarkand in September, PM Modi had said that “today’s era is not of war” – a line that was then repeatedly used by other world leaders in the context of the Ukraine war. The line was also included in the G20 Bali Summit declaration.
In October, PM Modi had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wherein he highlighted that endangering nuclear facilities could have catastrophic consequences on public health and the environment.
(With inputs from agencies)