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Can US deter Putin from using battlefield nukes?

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WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded the world last week that he controls the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

It wasn't the first time.

"If anyone decides to meddle (in Ukraine) and create unacceptable strategic threats for Russia, they must know our response will be lightning-quick," Putin said Wednesday. "We have all the tools for this … and we will use them if we have to."

Two days earlier, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivered the same message a little more diplomatically.

"The risk is serious, real. It should not be underestimated," Lavrov said. "Under no circumstances should a third World War be allowed to happen."

Nuclear saber-rattling is an unattractive habit, and Putin and his aides resort to it often. In 2008, they warned Poland that it would risk annihilation if it joined a U.S.-sponsored missile-defense program. (The Poles joined anyway.) In 2014, they warned that an attempt to push Russia out of Crimea, which they had grabbed from Ukraine, could trigger a nuclear response.

And in February, as he launched his invasion of Ukraine, Putin ordered his unhappy-looking defense minister to raise Russia's nuclear forces to "strategic combat readiness."

The elaborate threat appeared intended to frighten the United States and its European allies away from the war. Once again, the threat didn't work.

U.S. officials said they didn't take........

© Olean Times Herald

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