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On February 27, 2022, Russian President Vladmir Putin ordered his deterrence forces, which include nuclear weapons, on high alert. On February 28, an anonymous US official told Reuters, "I don't believe we've seen anything specific as a result of the direction that he gave, at least not yet, in terms of appreciable or noticeable muscle movements". On March 1, NATO's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told the AP, "We will always do what is needed to protect and defend our allies, but we don’t think there is any need now to change the alert levels of NATO’s nuclear forces."

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine relinquished possession of the nuclear weapons it inherited upon signing the Budapest Memorandum in 1994. The Memorandum establishes security assurances from the US, Russia, and the UK for Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, in return for those states to relinquish their nuclear weapons, which they did between 1993 to 1996. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Ukrainians have criticized the Budapest Memorandum. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on February 22, 2022:

I am initiating consultations within the framework of the Budapest Memorandum. It was entrusted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to convene them. If they do not take place again or if there are no security guarantees for our country as a result of them, Ukraine will have every right to believe that the Budapest Memorandum does not work, and all package decisions of 1994 will be called into question

On September 21, 2022, Putin delivered a speech in which he announced the partial mobilization of reservists and also issued what media sources have characterized as a threatened willingness to use nuclear weapons, saying

When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It's not a bluff.