Russia would consider using its nuclear weapons if it felt there was “an existential threat for our country,” a Kremlin spokesman said in an English-language television interview on Tuesday. The spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, made the comment after describing Ukraine, the neighboring country Russia invaded a month ago, as having been created by anti-Russian Western powers.
Mr. Peskov was speaking in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Video excerpts from the interview were posted on her Twitter account.
In it, Ms. Amanpour asked Mr. Peskov several times whether Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, intended to use nuclear weapons.
Mr. Peskov initially replied by characterizing the invasion of Ukraine as a defensive move to protect Russia. “President Putin intends to make the world listen to and understand our concerns,” Mr. Peskov said. “But no one would listen to us.”
Ukraine, he added, “was formed by the Western countries, anti-Russia.” After Ms. Amanpour audibly sighed, Mr. Peskov added, “This is the problem.”
Putin’s possible use of nuclear weapons has been a concern for the United States and NATO members as they consider how to defend Ukraine without escalating the conflict with Russia. Days after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Putin announced that he was putting his nuclear forces into “special combat readiness,” which is a heightened alert status reminiscent of some of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War.
When Ms. Amanpour asked again about Putin’s potential for using nuclear weapons, Mr. Peskov referred to Russia’s “concept of domestic security,” which he said is a publicly available document.
“You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” he said. “So, if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concern.”
Ms. Amanpour concluded that portion of the interview by saying Mr. Peskov was being purposely vague.
“I still don’t know whether I have a full answer from you,” she said, “and I’m just going to assume from you that President Putin wants to scare the world and keep the world on tenterhooks.”
The interview left some room to interpret where Russia stood on the matter. A CNN headline declared that Mr. Peskov “refuses to rule out” the use of nuclear weapons. A Reuters news service headline, hedging slightly, announced, “Kremlin: Russia would only use nuclear weapons if its existence were threatened.”