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Putting nuclear weapons to use risks escalation, impossible to control and potentially catastrophic | Diana Magnay

The US president is not the only one to say that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon,” as the US president calls it, is greater now than ever since the Cuban missile crisis or the Caribbean crisis.

If you think for more than five second about Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats given Russia’s geopolitical situation, you will conclude the same. It is a common comment on Russian state TV.

Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that ” This is not a joke” sounds like something you would make if you were bluffing about something, Russia’s nuclear arsenal must be taken seriously. This is why it exists.

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Evidently, US officials are. According to reports, they have been making clear comments behind closed doors with their Russian counterparts, that a nuclear strike would be the worst idea and that retaliation will be decisive.

The power of nuclear weapons is at their core in their ability persuade other parties to do or not do something. That is the essence of deterrence.

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Russia ‘keeping nuclear debate going’

They can be used in tactical and strategic roles, which have undetermined benefits and escalation risk that are impossible to manage and could prove to be catastrophic for all involved.

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The wind might blow in Russia’s favor, Vladimir Putin would lose his friends from China and India, and a Western convention retaliatory strike could knock out Russian infrastructure. President Putin must keep his country running and his people on his side.

It is unclear whether Vladimir Putin, who is celebrating his 70th Birthday on Friday, is thinking rationally about this.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine permits a first-strike nuke attack if the existence of the state itself is at risk. This is a very high standard. It has already hit targets in illegally annexed Crimea, and in Belgorod, Russia’s border town.

It seems that the Kremlin preferred not to make too much of it. Even though Russia can claim the four territories in Eastern Ukraine with this latest round of annexes, and thus any Ukrainian attack on Russia is a strike against Russia’s state, it seems a stretch to claim this as existential and a route that Russia has not chosen to take.

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What’s a tactical nuclear weapon?

Russia does not appear to have taken any of its nukes out of central storage, nor has it appeared to have attempted to unify the payload and the delivery means.

Its nuclear threats have been limited to threats so far. We still have a lot of work to do in terms of warnings and signalling before we can reach Armageddon.

Russia is losing ground on the battlefield but it still has other options than continuing to fight in Donbass and Kherson.

It has not taken out targets in Kyiv since the beginning of the war. How about hybrid warfare? (continuing) to target the energy infrastructure of Ukraine and other countries. Vladimir Putin is an expert in these dark arts. One would hope that a nuclear strike would be his last resort.

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Biden warns the world that nuclear ‘Armageddon is’ stands out as the greatest threat since the Cuban missile crisis

Image: Russian RS-24 Yars missiles roll on Red Square during the Victory Day military parade, Moscow, Russia, June 2020. Pic by AP

Russia’s talk is shifting towards the Kremlin’s willingness for talks. Let’s talk about ending this situation now. Russia claims a large chunk of Eastern Ukraine and NATO troops may get involved.

The president of Ukraine is not convinced, which is understandable. Volodymyrzelenskky longs to have his country back. He’s not thinking only about Vladimir Putin’s potential off-ramps, he is also thinking about winning.

Image: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskky
Image: Ukraine’s southeastern city Zaporizhzhia

It is important that the US president is there.

Joe Biden said it in comments heard by reporters that he is trying to find a way for Mr Putin to escape where he “not only loses face, but also loses significant power within Russia”.

Continue reading: What nuclear weapons do Russia possess?

It is difficult to know what it is, and Vladimir Putin seems to be getting more comfortable in a corner by raising rhetorical stakes. These are very worrying prospects.

Evgeny Popov , a Russian lawmaker and TV host stated that Russia would not make the first strike in an interview with Sky News.

“Use of a nuclear weapon in 21st-century is an insane decision. We are not crazy, and we hope that you aren’t either.”

Let’s all pray that Vladimir Putin feels the exact same.


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