Moscow has never been the first to resort to aggressive nuclear rhetoric, President Vladimir Putin told a question-and-answer panel at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday. The nation’s nuclear doctrine only allows the use of atomic weapons in “exceptional cases” and the current situation is not one, he added.

When asked whether Russia should “climb the nuclear escalation ladder faster,” Putin replied that Moscow has never initiated such escalation. Russia “has never said” it was “ready to push the red button,” the president stated, adding that Moscow has always called on other nations to treat such issues “seriously” but was instead accused of nuclear saber-rattling.

“We are not brandishing [nuclear weapons],” Putin said.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine clearly states that atomic weapons can only be used in the face of a “threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the country, the president stated. “I do not believe that it is the case now.”

He warned, however, that changes to the doctrine “are not ruled out.”

The president expressed hope that “it will never come” to a nuclear exchange between Moscow and the West. He said Russia possesses an effective early-warning system and a vast nuclear arsenal, including tactical nuclear weapons, which are three or four times more powerful than the bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The EU lacks both and only the US has comparable capacity, he added.

Moscow “has no reasons to even think about” using nuclear weapons, according to Putin. Russia vastly outguns its enemy when it comes to tanks and aviation, the president said. Ammunition production in Russia has also increased by a multiple of 20 amid the ongoing conflict, he added. Putin then called on Russian officials to not even “touch upon” the subject of nuclear weapons unless absolutely necessary.

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