Russia threatened a dramatic escalation of its war in Ukraine Thursday when Russia’s Channel One featured a video depicting Russian missiles reaching Berlin, Paris, and London.
According to the UK’s Express, Channel One’s 60 Minutes program, one of the most popular TV shows in Russia, featured “the chairman of the nationalist Rodina party, Aleksey Zhuravlyov,” who “suggested Russia could launch a Sarmat missile attack on the UK.” This was not, however, Zhuravlyov’s eccentric view: “Producers then cut to a map of Kaliningrad and seemed to suggest that missiles could be launched from the Russian enclave between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.”
Zhuravlyov declared: “One Sarmat [missile] and that’s it – the British Isles are no more.” The show’s cohost, Evgeny Popov, responded: “No one will survive in this war when you propose the strike with a Sarmat. Do you understand that no one will survive? No one on the planet.” Zhuravlyov, however, was undeterred, saying optimistically that “we’ll start with a blank slate,” and boasting that Russian missiles “can’t be intercepted. Their abilities are limited. They say they can shoot it down, we’ll see about that.”
The show’s other host, Popov’s wife Olga Skabeyeva, then added: “Sarmats are not in Kaliningrad yet. From Kaliningrad to Berlin is 106 seconds, from Kaliningrad to Paris is 200 seconds. You’re interested in London, 202 seconds to London.” Zhuravlyov responded happily: “They need to be shown this picture. ‘Guys, look at this picture — count the seconds, can you make it? Hello, it’s already here.’ That’s the way. Let them think about it. Get a stopwatch, count [to] 220 seconds. That’s how you talk to them, they don’t understand anything else.”
This latest round of nuclear threats came after James Stephen Heappey, Britain’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, said that Ukraine should strike inside Russia: “It is completely legitimate for Ukraine to be targeting in Russia’s depth in order to disrupt the logistics that if they weren’t disrupted would directly contribute to death and carnage on Ukrainian soil.” He also voiced support for other countries supplying Ukraine with weaponry: “There are lots of countries around the world that operate kit that they have imported from other countries; when those bits of kit are used we tend not to blame the country that manufactured it, you blame the country that fired it.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wondered if NATO would consider the same actions on Russia’s part to be justified: “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.”
Related: Loose Nuke Talk
Russia’s Defense Ministry added a threat: “We would like to underline that London’s direct provocation of the Kyiv regime into such actions, if such actions are carried out, will immediately lead to our proportional response. As we have warned, the Russian armed forces are in round-the-clock readiness to launch retaliatory strikes with high-precision long-range weapons at decision-making centres in Kyiv.” On Wednesday, Putin himself directly threatened retaliation against countries that are aiding Ukraine: “We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it: we’ll use them, if needed.”
This echoed what he said when he launched the invasion on February 24: “Now a few important, very important words for those who may be tempted to intervene in the ongoing events. Whoever tries to hinder us, or threaten our country or our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences that you have never faced in your history. We are ready for any turn of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made. I hope that I will be heard.”
He was not heard. France 24 reported on Sunday that “rather than hiding it,” the Pentagon “began openly talking this week about how it is training Ukrainian troops, including inside Germany, to use the weapons they are receiving. And instead of saying, as it did in February, that it wants only to help Ukraine survive, Washington now says its goal in the war is to debilitate Russia for the long term.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declared: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
Will this, then, become a nuclear war? We’re closer to that than we have been for nearly sixty years.