Inviting Destruction – Nuclear Nightmare In The Ukraine-Russia War (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #153)

There are three constants in modern life, death, taxes and the threat of nuclear war. To no one’s surprise, nuclear weapons and nuclear war are back in the news. The truth is they should never have been put on the back page or even worse, considered quaint relics of the Cold War. For as long as nuclear weapons exist and are deployed, the threat of nuclear war will be with us. The latest reminder of nuclear weapons came courtesy of Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations speaking at a conference in New York City on the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which was penned fifty years ago. Guterres did not mince words when he said the world is, “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” His words were meant to shock the participants and any other interested parties that were not in attendance to act on nuclear disarmament. The threat of a new nuclear arms race looms over the world.

Inviting destruction – Vladimir Putin

Mixed Signals – Nuclear Brinkmanship
Putin’s mixed signals on the use of nuclear weapons are dangerous and destabilizing. They are also reckless. He loves to brandish the nuclear sword as one of his most formidable power plays. This being Putin, he also continues to contradict himself. This was apparent in a message he sent to the conference in New York. Putin said, “We believe that there can be no winners in a nuclear war, and it must never be fought.” Some would find this a confidence building statement, taking one step back from the knife edge of nuclear brinkmanship. On the other hand, Putin has the habit of doing the exact opposite of what he says. When he has inferred the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, nothing has happened. Now when Putin expresses the admirable sentiment that a nuclear war should never be fought, does that mean he intends to be the one who breaks the nuclear taboo. Putin’s words and actions are a case where opposites tend to attract. His words and actions, even the more moderating ones, have an undertone of threatening menace.

Putin is right when he says there can be no winners in a nuclear war, Russian and the Soviets before them have long known that. So have the other long time nuclear powers such as the United States, Great Britain and France. Nevertheless, Putin has set out to prove that he at least considers the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield. His rhetoric is reckless and could lead to unintended consequences that even Putin cannot control. Much like when he decided to invade Ukraine. That decision may or may not have been a further step down the road to nuclear war. World leaders, policymakers and military analysts are right to be worried about the increased risk of a nuclear conflict, particularly in Ukraine. At no time since the war began 160 days ago has the conflict been in greater danger of going nuclear. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that the western world has relaxed their worries about the use of nuclear weapons as the war has continued. It was long thought that a large conventional war between nuclear armed powers would not be fought for fear of a nuclear conflagration.

Speaking up – Antonio Guterres

Mixed Signals – Nuclear Brinkmanship
Putin’s mixed signals on the use of nuclear weapons are dangerous and destabilizing. They are also reckless. He loves to brandish the nuclear sword as one of his most formidable power plays. This being Putin, he also continues to contradict himself. This was apparent in a message he sent to the conference in New York. Putin said, “We believe that there can be no winners in a nuclear war, and it must never be fought.” Some would find this a confidence building statement, taking one step back from the knife edge of nuclear brinkmanship. On the other hand, Putin has the habit of doing the exact opposite of what he says. When he has inferred the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, nothing has happened. Now when Putin expresses the admirable sentiment that a nuclear war should never be fought, does that mean he intends to be the one who breaks the nuclear taboo. Putin’s words and actions are a case where opposites tend to attract. His words and actions, even the more moderating ones, have an undertone of threatening menace.

Putin is right when he says there can be no winners in a nuclear war, Russian and the Soviets before them have long known that. So have the other long time nuclear powers such as the United States, Great Britain and France. Nevertheless, Putin has set out to prove that he at least considers the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield. His rhetoric is reckless and could lead to unintended consequences that even Putin cannot control. Much like when he decided to invade Ukraine. That decision may or may not have been a further step down the road to nuclear war. World leaders, policymakers and military analysts are right to be worried about the increased risk of a nuclear conflict, particularly in Ukraine. At no time since the war began 160 days ago has the conflict been in greater danger of going nuclear. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that the western world has relaxed their worries about the use of nuclear weapons as the war has continued. It was long thought that a large conventional war between nuclear armed powers would not be fought for fear of a nuclear conflagration.

The realm of possibility – Russian nuclear missile

Losing Ground – A Dire Scenario
While Ukraine forfeited their nukes under the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in 1994 in return for security guarantees, their western allies have plenty of nuclear weapons they can bring to the battlefield. Constant vigilance is needed in order to not miscalculate in the current war which might unwittingly lead to the detonation of a nuclear weapon. In addition, Russia has not been able to achieve its objectives in Ukraine. Now that the Ukrainians are bringing precision artillery to bear on the battlefield, they may be able to push Russia out of cities such as Kherson.

If Russia begins to lose ground Putin would have two choices, either retreat and accept a humiliating loss or detonate a tactical nuclear weapon to stop the advance. No one knows what Putin might do in these circumstances, but Ukraine and its allies must prepare for both scenarios. The best way to keep Putin from using a nuclear weapon is to communicate clearly and constantly the consequences to Russia and the Russian people if that occurs. This was stated several times in the first couple months of the war and needs to be reiterated at every opportunity. Deterrence is the only way to keep Putin from going nuclear. It is a pity that the same logic does not work for arms control.

Click here for: Putin’s Mouthpiece – Gerhard Schroder & War In Ukraine (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #154)



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