Moscow hopes Western escalation won’t lead to a nuclear exchange with “infinite” casualties © Sputnik / Ivan Sekretarev

Should the European NATO members manage to provoke Moscow into a nuclear response, the Americans might stay on the sidelines, Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday, Putin was asked about the increasingly belligerent rhetoric from some European capitals, which moderator Sergey Karaganov compared to the baying of hyenas.

“The Europeans have to think: if those with whom we exchange such [nuclear] blows are obliterated, would the Americans get involved in such an exchange, on the level of strategic weapons, or not? I very much doubt it,” Putin said in response.

The Russian president explained that, while the US and Russia both have well-developed early warning systems to detect incoming missiles, the European members of NATO do not. “In this sense, they are more or less defenseless,” he said.

Russia ‘not even thinking’ of using nuclear weapons – Putin Russia ‘not even thinking’ of using nuclear weapons – Putin

Moreover, Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons are “three to four times more powerful than the bombs the Americans used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Putin said. “We have many times more of them – both on the European continent, and even if the Americans bring theirs over from the US – we still have many times more.”

Any such war would have “infinite casualties,” the Russian president warned.

While not ruling out changes to Russia’s nuclear doctrine, Putin reminded the audience that it currently only allows the use of atomic weapons in case of threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, which is presently not the case.

Nor has Moscow ever brandished nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict, that being a malicious fabrication of some Western politicians, he added.

US may expand nuclear arsenal – Biden aide US may expand nuclear arsenal – Biden aide

There is no need to even bring up nuclear escalation when the Russian military and defense industry are effective and far more capable than its adversaries when it comes to armor and aviation, Putin said.

The US and its allies have funneled weapons, ammunition and equipment to Ukraine over the past two years, while insisting they wanted to inflict “a strategic defeat” on Russia – but weren’t a party to the conflict. In recent weeks, Washington, London and some other NATO members announced they were lifting restrictions on Kiev’s use of their weapons against Russia, prompting calls for Moscow to retaliate.

Citing the need to send the West a message, last month the Kremlin ordered the military district that borders Ukraine to carry out drills in deploying non-strategic nuclear weapons. (RT)