Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday ordered Russian nuclear forces to be on “high alert”, further escalating tensions between the East and the West. As the tussle between Russian troops and the Ukrainian army continues in the country, Ukraine’s leaders have agreed to hold talks with Russia. Russian troops and tanks have penetrated deep into Ukraine and surrounded the capital.
Citing an “aggressive statement” by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and tough economic sanctions, Putin has issued an order to keep Russia’s nuclear weapons ready. This has raised the possibility of the attack turning into a nuclear war. A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “Russian leaders are telling such forces to be prepared, and if there is even the slightest mistake, the situation can be extremely dangerous.”
Putin’s directive comes at a time when the Russian army is facing a tough competition from Ukraine. US officials believe the offensive has been more difficult and slower than Russia imagined, despite the advance of Russian forces across the country, although that may change over time. Amid rising tensions, Western nations say they will further tighten sanctions on Russia and buy and supply weapons to Ukraine, including “Stinger missiles” that shoot down helicopters and other aircraft.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced plans to meet with the Russian delegation at a location on the Belarus border. It is not yet clear where, when the meeting will take place, nor what is Russia’s final demand for a war in possible border talks. Western officials believe that Putin wants to overthrow the government of Ukraine and rule himself there. At the same time, the two main bodies of the United Nations, the 193-member General Assembly and the more powerful 15-member Security Council will hold separate meetings on Monday on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.