Vladimir Putin ups the ante with reminders Russia is a nuclear power

Soldiers march carrying flags displaying portraits of the Soviet state founder, Vladimir Lenin, at Red Square in Moscow in 2008.

 

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, was enjoying some friendly banter with his Russian counterpart when they stumbled on to a distinctly unfriendly subject: nuclear war.

It was a lunch break at an international summit, as Key related to me earlier this year: “So we’re having this joke exchange and one point I said to him: ‘How long would it take a missile to get out from Moscow to NZ?’ ”

The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, briefly consulted an aide, apparently without success, before turning back to the NZ leader. Key relates: “He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll let you know before it happens’.”

And since that exchange, the humour has drained away. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has put his country’s 5000 nuclear warheads at the forefront. Three times in the past two months, he has raised the spectre of nuclear war as he confronts the West. Continue reading