Doomsday Threat: A Very Russian Blackmail. Disinformation Digest

Written by Anton Khimiak, UCMC/HWAG analyst

Propaganda Digest: This is part of a series of analyses that exposes the most exaggerated, misleading, and outrageous rhetoric from recent Russian media sources, aimed at promoting critical thinking to better debunk the manipulation of Russian propaganda.

Putin’s recent order to increase the readiness of the Russian Armed Forces to use tactical nuclear weapons was a continuation of the Russian regime’s attempts to intimidate Europe and other democracies. The escalating horror stories of Russian propagandists appear every time partners declare increased support for Ukraine in its resistance to Russian aggression. To optimise the impact of blackmail, Moscow strategically disseminates its message across various media platforms, leveraging nuanced connotations to sway European public opinion effectively. In this digest, we analyse how Russian propaganda tries to instrumentalise threats of nuclear weapons against Ukraine’s allies.

Warning for Europe

Sergey Markov, Russian political scientist (68, 310 subscribers):

“That is, these are exercises on the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the Northern Military District. Against who? Against the Ukrainian Armed Forces? No. TNW (tactical nuclear weapon – ed.) will be against French troops, which Macron wants to send to Ukraine. To liberate Ukraine from NATO occupation. The use of tactical nuclear weapons against the NWS (nuclear-weapon state – ed.) of France does not violate international law.”

Yulia Vityazeva, Host at Russian propaganda TV channels (70, 214 subscribers):

“The insane [meaning the West] are aggressively promising and threatening Putin with retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by NATO. The fact that none of them will survive due to such an exchange of pleasantries does not bother them because they are imbeciles. But the reaction of the West will be fascinating. […] Right now, they are busy trying to lift their jaws off the floor.”

Legitimyi, anonymous Telegram channel (1, 020, 331 subscribers):

“If someone wants to drag Moldova into a war, then the residents of this country should understand that it is not Iskanders that can fly at their military installations, but tactical nuclear weapons.”

ZeRada, anonymous Telegram channel (415, 841 subscribers):

“Remember when we wrote that F-16s might appear as missile carriers for an attack on the Crimean Bridge? Through rhetorical escalation, the Russian Federation is trying to convince the West not to strike on the night before the inauguration.”

Verified: The Kremlin uses nuclear weapons as a means of political pressure on the Western politics to deter from countering Russian expansion. Through such threats, Putin’s regime is trying to influence public sentiment so that the population of Ukraine’s partner states pressures their authorities and delays the adoption of important security decisions.

Russian propaganda used this narrative on the eve of NATO exercises and the transfer of long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine.

Russian information forces are trying to intimidate neighboring countries. At the same time, the prospect of a full-scale nuclear war is very threatening for Russia. The open use of nuclear weapons could greatly affect the balance of power around the world and have global consequences for the stability of the Putin regime.

USSR nuclear tests in Semeі, Kazakhstan

Fueling escalation

Dmitriy Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation (1, 342, 128 subscribers):

“There is some total degradation of the ruling class in the West. This class does not want to connect elementary things logically. Sending your troops to the territory of ex-Ukraine will direct their countries into the war, to which we must respond. And, alas, not in the territory of ex-Ukraine.

Peskov to TASS, Russian propagandistic media (413, 154 subscribers):

The West is provoking an unprecedented round of tension in Ukraine; this requires response measures from Russia.”

Sergey Mardan, Russian publicist (240, 994 subscribers):

“The talk of Western politicians about sending their soldiers to Ukraine will have consequences. And any real escalation will be met with a magical, crushing response – tactical nuclear weapons. Or maybe it won’t. This is the very state of strategic uncertainty that Macron loves to talk about.”

Sergey Markov, Russian political scientist (68,310 subscribers):

“That is, with the threat of tactical nuclear weapons, Russia is trying to stop a new stage of NATO aggression. They plan to fire missiles at Moscow. We threaten them, don’t do it.”

Verified: Russia uses ‘atomic-bloodbath’ rhetoric as a magic wand that should influence the decision-making process in NATO countries. At the same time Russia has long refused to allow international observers to inspect its nuclear arsenal and has withdrawn from some important international treaties limiting its use of atomic weapons. In this way, the Kremlin caused tension in the global community.

Russian propaganda uses the potential introduction of a military contingent of NATO countries into Ukraine as an excuse for the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Still, at the same time, it has placed its nuclear weapons on the territory of its ally Belarus, which is a direct escalation against European countries. Moreover, this does not consider the numerous provocations on the NATO border, which we have written about here.

President of Belarus Lukashenko gives a conference where he announces the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Photo – Reuters