The possibility of a nuclear catastrophe is a real danger
The world powers must consider Putin’s threats seriously, stop the escalation, and find a diplomatic solution.
The world’s indifference towards the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe is insane today.
Over the last few months, Western experts downplayed the possibility that the Ukraine war could lead to a nuclear escalation between Russia and the West. Many experts believe that Putin was simply trying to balance his “adversaries” when he placed Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert in February.
However, Putin’s latest threats to use such weapons, made in a televised speech Wednesday morning, must not be taken lightly. He claimed that Western officials had threatened Russia with nuclear arms, something that US President Joe Biden refuted in his speech hours later. Putin announced that he would support the upcoming referendums in four Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, which could open the door to Moscow’s annexation.
The West can dismiss as irrelevant the threat that Putin will fire, for example, a secretary. Any chance that he might fire his nukes must be considered serious, no matter how remote.
For fear of retaliation from the Kremlin, the West has so far avoided creating a no-fly zone over Ukraine and transferring long-range missiles or other weapons that could threaten Russian territory.
The US and its allies have been providing Kyiv with sophisticated military support that has helped to shift the balance of power on the battlefield to Ukraine. Putin is being pushed into a corner by Russia’s increasing losses over the last few weeks. Putin is angry and humiliated, and his influence is waning at home as well as abroad. He has therefore decided to mobilize 300,000. More troops to reverse the setbacks in Ukraine.
As past Russian and American wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere have demonstrated, a troop surge will not win him the war. He combined his decision to send a nuclear warning with his military surge, alerting the West: Back off or face the consequences.
Putin’s threat of using weapons of mass destruction is therefore very serious. He stated that the threat was not a “bluff”, nor a blunder, but rather sounds desperate and purposeful. This is the largest escalation since seven months ago, and the largest troop mobilization since the Cold War.
Some analysts are warning Putin about the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons on battlefields. One analyst stated that Russia is prepared to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine if it continues its offensive operations. Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, stated on Thursday that the Kremlin could use nuclear weapons tactically to defend its occupation in parts of Ukraine it annexes.
These weapons are short-range and intended for limited strikes and seem unlikely in theory given Ukraine’s geographical proximity and Russia’s nuclear doctrine, which emphasizes the defense use of nuclear weapons when Russia’s existence is at risk.
This is why Putin’s real and imagined sense of victimhood makes the escalation even more alarming. He described his war on Ukraine as a Western conspiracy against Russia — a NATO-led attack against all Russians that pose an existential threat to the nation in his Wednesday speech.
It is not clear if he believes it or not. He has demonized the West and Ukraine and is trying to marshal Russian public opinion in favor of a larger war with unknown consequences.
Putin also claimed that the Ukrainian government-held Europe hostage to nuclear Armageddon. He bombed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was under Russian control. According to the Ukrainians, it is Russia who is carrying out the bombardment.
This is truly and tragically unacceptable. We must not forget that Eastern Europe, Russia, and other parts of Russia still suffer from the effects of Chornobyl 36 years after the nuclear accident at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant.
The danger of a nuke calamity is very real if the war escalates, by design or not; whether it stems from strategic or tactical nuclear weapons use or the bombing of a reactor.
It is not inevitable, and it can be avoided. In the past, nuclear powers have not used nuclear weapons to end or lose conventional wars. The world’s powers have a responsibility to stop the escalation of tension and seek diplomatic solutions sooner than later.
Putin might be directly responsible for the war of aggression against Ukraine. However, NATO’s insistent expansion to Russia’s borders and its reckless saber-rattling in Ukraine has been extremely provocative and reckless.
This war is a disaster for everyone, especially in Ukraine. It’s only going to get worse. It is important to keep cool. It is not too late. All those still hoping to win must realize that there is no way to win a nuclear war.
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