This backgrounder explains the significance and risks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See each question and answer included in this backgrounder on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the bottom of this post.

Why Did Russia Raise Its Nuclear Alert?

On Sunday, Putin put Russian nuclear forces on high alert. It was the first time Russia, holder of the world’s largest nuclear stockpile, has ever taken that step. The move was seen as a response to the growing list of sanctions imposed upon Russia by the US and NATO. Many see it as a warning of the tit-for-tat escalation that the crisis has presented to the world.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia has 6,000 nuclear warheads compared to the US’s 5,400. Either count is more than enough to unleash a nuclear holocaust.

The elevated Russian alert enables (but does not automatically empower) the expedited launch of nuclear weapons in the event Putin and senior Russian leadership are killed.


Learn more about the background and facts behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine through this set of backgrounds and explanations. Subscribe to the blog to stay up to date when new backgrounders are posted.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at