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Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told PBS on Monday that “no one in Russia is considering the idea of using nuclear weapons,” which in itself may be a cause for alarm. Interestingly, the original PBS story was headlined: “Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Ukraine and the West: ‘Don’t push us into the corner,’” while the TASS report on the same interview was headlined: “No one in Russia is thinking about using nuclear weapons, Kremlin spokesman says.”

Do you get the distinction?


Let’s take it up from the start:

Special correspondent for the PBS News Hour, Ryan Chilcote, asked Peskov: “Over the weekend, we heard President Biden call President Putin a butcher and say that it is impossible for him to remain in power. President Biden then said that he was not advocating for regime change. And yet you have said that the Kremlin still finds these comments alarming. Why?”

Before we go on, didn’t everybody find it alarming that the President of the United States was clearly calling for regime change in Russia? Why else would everyone from Secretary of State Antony Blinken down go out of their way to explain that old Joe was just in an angry mood, what with visiting Poland and learning about Russian atrocities – but didn’t, definitely didn’t call for toppling Putin?

Peskov said: “Well, it is quite alarming. … First of all, it was a personal insult. And one can hardly imagine a place for personal insult in the rhetoric of a political leader. … And his statement involves whether Putin should not or should be in power in Russia. … Of course, it is completely unacceptable. It is not for the United States’ president to decide who is going to be and who is the president of the Russian Federation. It is the people of Russia who are deciding during the election.”

Biden’s threat brought to mind the removal of so many world leaders the White House was not happy with, from Iran’s President Mohammad Mosaddegh the CIA and MI6 removed in a coup d’état in 1953 to Chile’s President Salvador Allende the CIA expunged in 1973, and all the leaders in between and thereafter. America has a track record of killing its political adversaries, so Putin has every reason to be worried.

Against that background of an American threat to take out the president of Russia came Chilcote’s nuclear option question.

“We heard yet another official over the weekend, this time former President Dmitry Medvedev, say that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if it faces an existential threat, even if the other side has not employed nuclear weapons,” the PBS correspondent began. “So, could you please clarify for us what exactly would amount to an existential threat to Russia? For example, if you were unable to achieve your objectives in Ukraine, even though there is no one fighting in Russia, there’s no strikes on Russia, could that be perceived as an existential threat?”

Peskov first reassured the viewers at home that “we have no doubt that all the objectives of our special military operation in Ukraine will be completed.”

Good to know.

And should things not turn out so successful, he added, “any outcome of the operation, of course, is not a reason for the usage of a nuclear weapon. We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat to the existence of the state in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat or the existence of our country.”

Chilcote then said, “Look, Mr. Peskov, if you stick to … the dictionary definition of existential threat … clearly, nothing that is taking place or that is even really, quite frankly, imaginable that could take place could reach that bar of threatening the existence of the Russian state. So, why not just clear this up right now? Why can’t you, on behalf of Russia, rule out the use of nuclear weapons in this conflict, right here?”

So Peskov did just that. He declared: No one is thinking about using, about — even about the idea of using a nuclear weapon.”

So, now we have two statements from the two sides: 1. The US is not even dreaming of replacing President Putin, and, 2. Russia is not even dreaming about using nuclear weapons.

If you can remain calm and relaxed while being aware of the tenuous veracity of both declarations, you must send me the number of your pharmacist.


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