Officials are reportedly looking for ways to avert “chaos” at home in case of a nuclear event
Western governments are drawing up plans to avoid panic among their citizens should a nuclear weapon be used in Ukraine, two major UK media outlets have reported.
The alleged preparations come as NATO officials are fueling speculation about the possibility, and issuing repeated warnings that Moscow would face “severe consequences” if it deployed the bomb.
Asked whether options and crisis plans were in place to address the aftermath of a nuclear detonation in Eastern Europe, an unnamed Western official confirmed that such plans were underway, according to reports in the Times and the Guardian.
“As you would expect, the government is conducting prudent planning for a range of possible scenarios of which that is one,” the official told reporters on Friday, referring to a nuclear strike.
While the official offered few other details about what those options would entail, the reports speculated that leaflets could be distributed to inform citizens “how to survive a nuclear attack” or to avoid panic buying.
What The Telegraph described as a “nuclear war of words” between Russia and the West started last month, after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed that Moscow would use “all the means” at its disposal if Russia’s territorial integrity was threatened. The statement was interpreted by the US and its allies as a “veiled threat” to deploy nuclear weapons during the conflict in Ukraine.
“Putin knows that if he uses a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, it will have severe consequences for Russia,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace similarly said on Thursday that “if Russia were to use a nuclear weapon, there would be severe consequences,” while scolding French President Emmanuel Macron for revealing too much when he said Paris would not respond with its own arsenal of nukes.
Around the same time, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that any nuclear attack against Ukraine would prompt a powerful answer from the West, which would see the Russian army “annihilated” – but also acknowledged it would not be a “nuclear answer.”
US President Joe Biden warned that the conflict in Ukraine could lead to “Armageddon” during a Democratic fundraiser last week, adding that nuclear tensions were at their highest level since the peak of Cold War brinkmanship in the 1960s. Biden’s comments triggered some alarm among Americans, but were quickly followed by clarifications from the White House and the Pentagon that, in fact, there was no intelligence or indication that “Putin has either made a decision to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, or has done anything to get closer to that decision making process.”
In the meantime, Poland – a major supplier of weapons to Kiev in its battle against Russian forces – has suggested that Washington expand its nuclear-sharing program and deploy warheads on its territory to serve as a deterrent against Moscow. President Andrzej Duda and deputy PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski have both floated the proposal in recent months.
Russian officials have repeatedly stated that a nuclear war should never be fought, while Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu in August made it clear that Moscow is not considering a nuclear strike on Ukraine, given that there are no targets warranting such drastic measures.