Why is the Russian nuclear threat being underestimated on Russia’s TV screens

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For several days, the editors of Russian television have been talking about the possibility of a “third world war”, and mentioned the use of nuclear weapons.

Underestimate the global conflict between the Russian population, or provoke the West? For several days, journalists and analysts did not hesitate to mention the danger of a nuclear confrontation on Russian television. Without real limits.

“The Third World War is realistic”

“Either we lose in Ukraine or World War III begins. I think the possibility of a third world war is more realistic,” Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the pro-Krylym newspaper, Russia Today, said on Russia 1 website. “The idea that it all ends in a nuclear attack strikes me as the most likely scenario, much to my dismay, but it’s inevitable.”

“Actually, these representatives from different countries that support Ukraine are a kind of collective Hitler,” an editorial writer from a state news agency said a few days ago. Before adding: “We are in fact living in a third world war.”

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Nuclear weapons are also regularly mentioned on television sets. Last Thursday, an analyst suggested to Russia 1 the targeting of several European cities with the new Russian nuclear missile Sarmat, which Vladimir Putin boasted of having “successfully tested”.

“It goes from Kaliningrad to Berlin in 106 seconds. From Kaliningrad to Paris in 200 seconds,” and to London “in 202 seconds,” he released the animated charts to back it up. The announcer replied, “But no one will remain on this planet.” “Never say never,” his teammate also shot out with a chilling smile.

This map aired on Russian 1. It shows that a Russian Sarmat missile based in Kaliningrad can hit Berlin in 106 seconds, Paris in 200 seconds and London in 202 seconds. pic.twitter.com/KOwe9RdkOY

– Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) April 29, 2022

“This public discourse that is not prohibited can lead to errors”

According to General Jean-Claude Allard, Director of Research at IRIS, these threats respond to the logic of propaganda. “As in any war, but more so in this war, because of modern communication capabilities and their resonance in our Western societies, fueled by the audio-visual media, there are other evolving lines of action that go beyond military operations, particularly psychological.”

As the expert reminds us, these are just words at this point. “But this is the first time in history, however rich, of Cold War-type confrontations, such discourse on a taboo subject, he notes. In the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, near the nuclear standoff, the dialogue between the two protagonists. Today no. And this unfettered public discourse, can lead to slip-ups.”

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Threatening to dissuade the United States from doing more

However, Jean-Claude Allard sees no interest for Moscow in a nuclear strike to launch a war. “They have the traditional resources to achieve their goal of creating a front line along the southern coasts of Ukraine and staying there to make it a Russian territory and retain access to the sea.”

According to him, Putin is maintaining the nuclear threat in order to dissuade the United States from further engagement. “The words of United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also pose a threat to Russia: We want to see Russia so weak that it can no longer do the things it did with the invasion of Ukraine“.

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