Vladimir Putin could launch a nuclear war against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), warns a retired Russian military official.

Tensions have risen as Russia's threats of a potential nuclear conflict with the West have increased during their invasion of Ukraine. Several Kremlin officials, military leaders, and media propagandists have hinted that nuclear weapons could be used against the West – though experts are divided on how serious these threats really are.

Earlier this year, Russian President Putin temporarily suspended his country's participation in the joint New START Treaty with the US. In March, they announced that Moscow would build tactical nuclear weapon storage facilities in Belarus, a country run by close Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko.

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According to Newsweek, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian minister of internal affairs and a prolific social media commentator, shared a clip of retired Russian colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok appearing on a state-run news program, discussing tensions with nations on the Baltic Sea.

He warned Sweden, which is in the process of joining NATO, against antagonistic behaviour towards Russia. Adding that tensions in the region could lead to an inevitable nuclear conflict with other NATO members in the region.

Khodaryonok, a Russian military expert, warned of potential conflict with NATO, saying: "Nonetheless, this would, in fact, lead to a conflict between the Russian Federation and NATO," and "And this conflict can only be nuclear. This is why the inhabitants of Stockholm and Tallinn [Estonia's capital] can be asked do you need it?

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“Do you need it? Do you even imagine an underwater nuclear explosion on the roadstead of Tallinn or Stockholm, which will sweep away your city with a wave? Do you even imagine that the entire Baltic Sea could be loaded with our mines?… We might dump so many mines that it would take you 10 years to demine it if you still had the capacity and means to do so."

Sweden is one of several European countries – including Ukraine and Georgia, attempting to join NATO. After facing opposition from Turkey, Sweden has been trying to join the alliance since earlier this year.

In July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped his opposition to Sweden's NATO accession. Finland was officially admitted in April, while other Baltic nations like Poland, Estonia, and Latvia, were admitted between 1999 and 2004.

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Some experts have said that Sweden joining the alliance would turn the Baltic Sea into a "NATO Lake," severely hampering Russia's ability to operate on it. Article 5 of the NATO agreement states that member nations will view an attack on one of them as an attack on all and provide the necessary military aid in response.

An attack by Russia against one of these members, therefore, could lead to a much broader international conflict.

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