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As NATO activates its response force for the first time in history, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has put his nuclear deterrent forces on ready, leaving the world on the verge of a nuclear showdown, according to former Putin economic adviser Andrei Illarionov to Newsmax.

“This particular decision is not in response to the situation in Ukraine, not even what is going on in Ukraine right now, but as a response to American readiness to apply to sanctions,” Illarionov, now a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., told Sunday’s “Wake Up America.” “The situation now is unbelievably grave.”

The move is “incomparable” to any nuclear threat the world has faced to date, and the U.S. and NATO must respond in kind immediately, Illarionov told co-host Amanda Brilhante.

“If the United States will not respond with adequate reaction to this decision, it means not only Ukraine but the whole Europe and at some point the United States will be under nuclear threat, direct nuclear threat,” Illarionov said in a dire warning.

“That is why United States and NATO countries need to respond immediately, right now, to this nuclear blackmail of Putin.”

Brilhante asked what the response should look like.

“That should be exactly the same,” he said. “It should be putting all nuclear arsenal of the United States and NATO on the highest alert – at least equal response to what Putin has done.”

Even that move, Illarionov lamented, will not “stop” Putin’s aggression, but it will cause him to “think at little bit of possible consequences”

“This absolutely changes the whole game,” he said, adding Putin is steadfast in his designs to reconstitute the old Soviet Union.

“His goal is not Ukraine,” he continued. “His goal is the 1997 line in Europe, which means half of Europe will be under his sphere of influence. But to get this, he needs to humiliate the United States and NATO, and he’s doing exactly that right now.”

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