Former Russian leader and Putin ally warns Ukraine’s Western allies ahead of a key meeting in Germany.

Dmitry Medvedev, an outspoken former Russian president who is close to Vladimir Putin, has warned NATO that Moscow’s defeat in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war.

“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” Medvedev, who serves as deputy chairman of Putin’s powerful security council, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

“Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends,” said Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012.

He also said the military alliance and other Western defence leaders, due to meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to discuss support for Ukraine, should consider the risks of their policy.

The Kremlin was quick to endorse Medvedev’s remarks, saying they were in full accordance with Moscow’s principles.

Moscow’s doctrine allows for a nuclear attack after “aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened”.

Medvedev, 57, who once presented himself as a reformer who was ready to work with the United States to liberalise Russia, has recast himself as the most publicly hawkish member of Putin’s circle.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago on February 24, Medvedev has repeatedly raised the threat of nuclear chaos and used insults to describe the West.

Russia and the United States, by far the largest nuclear powers, hold about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads.

Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads while the United States has 5,428, China 350, France 290 and the United Kingdom 225, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

As president, Putin is Russia’s ultimate decision-maker on the use of nuclear weapons.

Washington has not detailed what it would do if Putin ordered what would be the first use of nuclear weapons in war since the United States unleashed the first atomic bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

While NATO has conventional military superiority over Russia, when it comes to nuclear weapons, Russia has nuclear superiority over the alliance in Europe.

Putin casts Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine as an existential battle with an aggressive and arrogant West and has said that Moscow will use all available means to protect itself.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War II and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The United States and its allies have condemned the invasion of Ukraine as an imperial land grab, while Ukraine has vowed to fight until the last Russian soldier leaves its territory.

Since a grim New Year’s Eve message describing the West as Russia’s true enemy in the war on Ukraine, Putin has sent several signals that Moscow will not back down.

He has dispatched hypersonic missiles to the Atlantic and appointed his top general to runRussia’s war effort.

Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s powerful military-industrial complex was ramping up production, and was one of the main reasons why his country would prevail in Ukraine.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA