One simple fact seems to elude western policymakers and media: Putin and his government are genuinely afraid of Russia being attacked by the U.S. and NATO. From Scott Ritter at consortiumnews.com:
Vladimir Putin is a madman. He’s lost it. At least that is what the leaders of the West would like you to believe. According to their narrative, Putin — isolated, alone, confused, and angry at the unfolding military disaster Russia was undergoing in Ukraine — lashed out, ostensibly threatening the entire world with nuclear annihilation.
In a meeting with his top generals on Sunday, the beleaguered Russian president announced, “I order the defense minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service.”
The reason for this action, Putin noted, centered on the fact that, “Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country” in relation to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
The “deterrence forces” Putin spoke of refers to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
What made the Russian president’s words resonate even more was that last Thursday, when announcing the commencement of Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, Putin declared that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.” He emphasized that Russia is “one of the most potent nuclear powers and also has a certain edge in a range of state-of-the-art weapons.”
When Putin issued that threat, The Washington Post described it as “empty, a mere baring of fangs.” The Pentagon, involved as it was in its own review of U.S. nuclear posture designed to address threats such as this, seemed non-plussed, with an anonymous official noting that U.S. policy makers “don’t see an increased threat in that regard.”