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Did Russia Just Threaten Turkey With Nuclear Weapons?

Reports say a source close to Putin claims Russia warned Erdogan of readiness to use tactical nuclear weapons to defend Russian strike force in Syria from Turkish attack


The US investigative journalist Robert Parry has made an astonishing claim – and one that has gone completely unnoticed.

He is reporting that the Russian government has warned Erdogan that Russia is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons to defend its Syrian strike force from Turkish attack.

Parry’s exact words are as follows:

“A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught.

Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.”

Generally I would be skeptical of such a story from an anonymous source. However Parry is a journalist of the highest reliability and integrity so there can be no doubt he actually has been told this by a real source.

Of course it is possible the source is making the story up, or that he is not as close to Putin as Parry believes.

However on 11th February 2016 Russia’s Security Council held a meeting the public report of which is unusually terse, whilst on the same day the Russian military reported to Putin about a series of military exercises arranged at short notice in their southern military district, which look like they were intended to prepare the Russian military for rapid action at short notice against Turkey should the need arise.

If a warning really was given it might have been given either on that day or possibly on the day after, to coincide with the military exercises whose meaning in that case would not be lost on either the US or the Turks.

The meeting of the Security Council (whose importance I discussed here) would in that case have been convened to discuss and authorise it.

The fact Obama telephoned Putin a day later on 14th February 2016 might also be connected to the warning, if it really was given.

Both the Turks and the Russians would surely have informed the US of such a warning. It would be entirely understandable in that case that the US President would want to discuss it with the Russian President. In fact it would be astonishing if he did not want to.

If it was the warning Obama and Putin discussed, then that might explain why the US and the Russians are giving such completely different accounts of the conversation.

Neither side would want to make the warning public – something which would escalate the crisis to stratospheric levels – and each would want to concoct a cover story to hide what was really discussed, which given the circumstances and the urgency they might be unlikely to coordinate with each other. That might explain why the accounts of the conversation differ so much.

Against that it must be said that it is by no means unusual for Russian and Western governments to publish radically different accounts of conversations Russian and Western leaders have with each other.

All this it should be stressed is speculation, though as is apparent it is consistent with some of the diplomatic and military moves.

If such a warning really was given it would not be the first time the US or Russia have threatened to use nuclear weapons.

The US for example warned Saddam Hussein in 1990 that it was ready to retaliate with nuclear weapons if he used chemical weapons against their troops in the First Gulf War.

However a threat to use nuclear weapons is one that is never made lightly. If it really was made it shows how fraught the situation in Syria has become.

If the Russians really did make such a threat then it would be a further reason why the US and its European allies would be urging Erdogan to act with restraint, and would be counselling him against plunging into a war with the Russians in Syria.

I had already guessed this was the case (see here and here) and in the same article in which he reports the Russian threat Parry discusses this issue extensively.

Confirmation that the Western powers are warning Erdogan against an invasion of Syria has now also come from the Financial Times (see “Turkey and Saudi Arabia consider Syria intervention”, Financial Times, 18th February 2016):

“The US is seeking to rein in its allies Turkey



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