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What Happens if Russia Uses Nuclear or Chemical Weapons in Ukraine?

Ukraine Donbas
Russian Army tank firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Speaking to CNN’s “At This Hour” on Friday, U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price said that Russia would face a “cascade of consequences” in the event that it uses weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine.

“I’ll say a couple things, both of which shouldn’t have to be said in the year 2022,” Price told CNN. “Number one, the use of any kind of weapon of mass destruction would constitute the height of irresponsibility. And number two, the use of WMD would elicit a cascade of consequences not only from the United States but from our partners and allies around the world.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to appoint Gen. Alexander Dvornikov as the head of his military’s Ukraine operation signaled to the world that the Kremlin may be willing to escalate in Ukraine following a series of embarrassing defeats. Dvornikov is often called the “Butcher of Syria,” a reference to his use of heavy weaponry against civilians in Syria. 

What Constitutes a WMD? 

The term “weapon of mass destruction” may refer to several different kinds of weapons, including nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological. Generally, a WMD is designed to harm as many people as possible, meaning that it goes beyond regular ammunition and explosives.

NATO forces believe that Russia is willing to use biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons as part of its military offensive in Ukraine. In the latest $800 million aid package announced this week by the White House, Ukrainian soldiers were provided with a range of protective equipment that helps soldiers and civilians survive in the event that nuclear, chemical or biological weapons are used.

Will Russia Use WMDs?

Originally said they would use them in the event of an “existential threat” to Russia. Dmitry Peskov then walked that back and said existential threat is unrelated to Ukraine. And now, they warned of nuclear deployment in the Baltic Sea if Finland and Sweden join NATO.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on March 22 that Russia would be compelled to deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a perceived existential threat to Russia. Those comments were walked back within days when Peskov told Western news outlets that the idea of an “existential threat” to Russia was separate from the Ukraine conflict and that he did not expect the Russian Federation to deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

This week, however, the Kremlin warned that if Finland and NATO announce in coming weeks their intention to join NATO, Russia would deploy nuclear weapons to the Baltic Sea.

“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” Russian Security Council chairman Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

Putin also put his country’s nuclear weapons on high alert in March.

However, according to Dan Hamilton of the Brookings Institution, the threat made by Medvedev was “disingenuous.”

“They already have nuclear weapons in the Baltic region,” Hamilton said, adding that the comments were an effort to intimidate.

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.



  1. CK

    April 16, 2022 at 6:36 pm

    Again today, Zelensky is warning the world to prepare themselves for this eventuality. I feel we all see it coming if Russia’s Donbass offensive fails, as is quite likely.

    I will repeat what I said in a related thread. There is a weird situation going on where I worry, the more successful Ukraine is at defending itself, retaking territory, and striking back at Russia, the more likely it is Putin will deploy some sort of WMD in Ukraine out of sheer spite.

    The author is right, the last week has been absolutely humiliating for Russia. Every day, incident by incident, Russia’s image as a world class superpower, prestige, pride and honour are systematically demolished by a country many rated as a backwater third world bit player. A country that is now showing heroidms and determination beyond anyone’s wildest dreams (Russia included) in defending the values of freedom, democracy and self-determination.

    How much more of this can Putin take? Especially with the daily trolling by Ukraine. Russian warship, go fuck yourself, giving soldiers sunflower seeds, printing out stamps, the defense minister going as far as joking he will enjoy scuba diving in the wreck of Russia’s former Black Sea Fleet flagship.

    Russia seems to think it has the right to invade any coutnry it wants, and not to expect retaliation. The last time it suffered any kind of attack on its self on this scale was in WW2. They are simply not used to humiliation on this scale.

    And what is the Donbass offensive fails? What if Ukraine actually starts recapturing territory, say Kherson, the Crimea, Mariupol, Donbass, Donestk, Luhansk, when the Russian war machine inevitably collapses? It is at this point I think the unthinkable will happen and we will see a nuclear device used in a conflict for the first time in nearly 77 years. A landmark change in history, regardless of whether it is low yield or not, used in a city or “just” on Ukrainian Army formations.

    What then? How will Ukraine respond? How will Nato and the West respond? I can envision a few scenarios.

    1)- A good first start could be for NATO (or the US, France and the UK) to unilaterally set a red line that they would consider any use of a CBRN device in Ukraine as an act of war, regardless of Ukraine’s status in NATO. So then, Russia either has to win this war “conventionally”, or go home.

    2) If Ukraine surrenders, well, then that’s that. We will have officially returned to the cold war again, but right at the hottest setting it’s ever been, higher even.

    3) Ukraine doesn’t surrender. More nukes are used, after which they surrender. Or, after the 1st use, NATO and/or US, France, UK, declare any further use will be declared an act of war.

    4) Ukraine suddenly “discovers” nukes of its own. Any further attacks on it will be responded to in kind. Either they are able to figure out a compromise and come to peace, or nuke each other.

    Of all the above scenarios are utterly horrifying, and may seem extremely unlikely, but everything that has so far transpired has also been extremely unlikely. These are volatile, unlikely times. It also has to be understood, the west/EU/NATO/US would HAVE to do something if a nuclear weapon was dropped right on its doorstep. To not take action would not be a feasible outcome, which is why the above scenarios would play out in some form. For each and every one of them, WW3 is an extremely likely outcome.

    A true nightmare for everyone. I hope against hope that ordinary Russians come to their senses and see the utter futility and idiocy of this war, or that high ranking officials say enough is enough and decide to put an end to Putin. Whichever way gets us out of this road to hell.

    Another thing that will be weighing heavily on Putin’s mind will be the 9th of May Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, traditionally a very high profile PR and nationalistic stunt parade for Putin, Russia and ordinary Russians. And what will he have to show for it? It is said the Russian army is so battered they may not even have sufficient or workable hardware to display that day.

    Putin will have to show something. I wouldn’t put it past him to have either used a nuke by then, or to even use one on the day if by then, key goals have not been achieved.

    Let us all hope I am wrong.

  2. DT

    April 16, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    Will Russia buy them from the USA and German labs in the Ukraine?

  3. Alex

    April 16, 2022 at 8:22 pm

    As soon as evidence became known about the biological laboratories of the United States and Britain in Ukraine, where biological weapons were being developed, the Anglo-Saxon world threw a tantrum: Russia wants to use bioweapons. Of course, when he himself is a robber, they try to call another a robber. Old and very bad technique. After all, we remember how the United States destroyed an entire country after Colin Powell shook a test tube with washing powder. And the US even… Didn’t apologize for their lies. The hysteria is getting bigger, because Russia has published the names of those who led the biolabs in Ukraine. After the end of the special military operation, the world will shudder from the facts of what the Anglo-Saxons did in Ukraine. Let’s wait a bit.

  4. CK

    April 16, 2022 at 8:24 pm

    Why, is the state of their stocks and economy so bad these days they have to resort to foreign providers?

  5. CK

    April 16, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    Yes, that makes complete sense. The US and UK, two superpowers that have had immense stocks of existing chemical and biological weapons already, developing “new ones” inside an unstable, non-allied country, experiencing asymmetric warfare for nearly a decade, and right at the border with their major opponent, which they have known for ages was at the threat of invasion.

    Hundreds of military bases to choose from anywhere else in the world, as far away as possible from prying eyes, from bases in Africa, the Middle East, the Falklands, the Pacific, and/or a bunch of Eurasian islands, covered by jungle, hidden away, isolated, surrounded by water, not bordering any hostile countries, untouchable, but no – build new labs in Ukraine, to test new weapons they don’t need, right in the border with Russia.


  6. Alex

    April 16, 2022 at 9:28 pm

    It’s great! Bandera’s Nazi, because of his hysteria, recognizes the war crimes of the Anglo-Saxons. Not a bad start. Britain is a superpower? Very interesting 🙂

    The Third Reich was more powerful than the US and Britain together. the Third Reich also liked to conduct various biological, chemical and other experiments on people. Confidence in their superiority over humanity was destroyed at the cost of huge losses. The peoples of Russia are ready for any war, but the countries of the West are not ready for this. Everyone remembers how many days the countries of Europe resisted the Third Reich? There were cases of only 2-3 days!
    And these soldiers want to fight with Russia? Probably, in the first rows, as always, Bandera Nazis will be let into the meat, promising them money, power, slaves … Oh, I’m wrong – they already did it! 🙂 How many Bandera bastards are already lying in the open? But this is not important, what matters is how they will be judged by the Ukrainians after the completion of the special military operation.

    Many Ukrainians are looking forward to this moment. This was evident from the way they embrace their liberators with tears in their eyes. I am sure that, just as after the Second World War, the Ukrainians will still get Bandera Nazis from dugouts and hiding places for several more years and judge the bastards in the same way as after the Second World War.

  7. CK

    April 16, 2022 at 10:17 pm

    “This was evident from the way they embrace their liberators with tears in their eyes.”

    I love how much of a truth you have inadvertently mouthed here. You’ll never realise it, either, probably your first and only time on this website.

    We saw that Russian “liberation” meant 77 years ago, and it seems nothing has changed. Pillage your own people, that of your neighbours, your allies, and then your enemies, in that order.

    You, you unfortunate sod, have been the first. Sadly, you are beyond tears, but not the rest of the world seeing this farce.

    What a tragedy.

  8. Alex

    April 17, 2022 at 12:16 am

    I am pleased to see how a young Bandera Nazi under different nicknames, but from one address squeals and hysteria.
    However, the reality is that the filming of the documentary was made by an American journalist who lives in Kyiv and his colleague from Germany, who, risking his life, specially came to Donbass and to the front line. The whole world saw how the people of Donbass thanked the Russian soldiers. But the most interesting thing in the report is the evidence that the Bandera Nazis took refuge in schools, kindergartens, and hospitals. There is evidence of their war crimes and brutal torture of both Ukrainians and Russians. There is evidence that they use drugs. There is evidence of how Bandera’s naists tortured, killed women, children, and then threw everyone into common graves. I am sure that after the end of the special military operation, the Ukrainians will simply tear them apart. the world began to wake up and not only Russia is investigating, but also many independent journalists and experts. As the Bandera whore said in the commercial: “our god rises from the black depths of the Dnieper.” And I agree with her – your satanic “god” wanted to rise, but the Ukrainians and Russians, with the help of the Christian God, will drive him back along with his servants – Bandera Nazis.

  9. CK

    April 17, 2022 at 5:42 am

    “There is evidence” aplenty that you live in an alternate reality Alex, that’s all really.

    Also, did you hear Alex? They got another one. Maj. Gen. Vladimir Petrovich Frolov! That’s what, 3 in a night? So back to the scoreboard, 0 days since Russian generals killed in Russia’s “special military operation” wink wink.

    I just don’t understand it Alex – it’s the Donbass militia that get all the NATO weapons, and the Ukrainians fall over themselves with so much joy at seeing their Russian “liberators”, but its the Russian generals that keep getting killed, and their military that keeps having setbacks.

    How can this be? Are the Ukrainian civillians just not throwing themselves hard enough in front of the generals to take their bullets? Maybe the Donbass militia just aren’t all that great?

    Something is wrong here Alex, I can feel it!

  10. Reggie

    April 17, 2022 at 10:18 am

    We all know, NOTHING other than MORE sanctions will happen. Russian knows this too. Which is is why they have no issue with these threats.

  11. VMI

    April 17, 2022 at 11:49 am

    From my point of view Nuclear escalation at this time by the Russians is the only way this conflict will end. Either all parties will agree on peace terms or a engage in a Nuclear WWIII. With the use of Tac Nucs by the Russians will force all parties to show their poker hands and see who is bluffing.

  12. Alex

    April 17, 2022 at 9:13 pm

    American military analyst Scott Ritter: “The most important holiday in Russia is Victory Day. They died in that war with Nazi Germany from 20 to 30 million. In every city, in every village there are monuments to people who died. Every family lost a relative, two, three, four, ten, twenty in that war! That’s what Russia is today! And you order them to sit quietly and watch the ideology of Nazism revive in Ukraine, and not interfere?”
    Every country has good people. And everywhere they are in the majority, even in Nazi Ukraine. Independent journalists, analysts, experts bring the truth to the world and no false propaganda can stop them.

  13. CK

    April 18, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    If lazy Alex get to just copy + paste his replies, guess I’ll do the same.

    Nice to see Alex bring some friends.

    But always the same playbook – whataboutism, deflect, counter-accuse, obfuscate.

    Regardless of who helped who and did what in WW2, that’s irrelevant. We are talking about Russi and Ukraine TODAY. That is the onus of this argument.

    And it’s funny Alex, you say we are seeing Nazism rise again, and how can we let it flourish – exactly, that’s exactly why we are arming Ukraine. Because Russia today is Nazi in almost everything but name. Authoritarian, one party state, extreme censorship, gulags, concentration camps, rampant nationalism, imperialist misadventures, wish for more land, genocide, war crimes, the list goes on.

    But yes, keep talking about WW2. The one time Russia was on the right side of history. You must really miss those days, huh?

  14. Alex

    April 19, 2022 at 4:06 am

    Why argue with idiots when you can just give an example from history. And history cannot be distorted or erased. Ukraine, or rather, at that time the outskirts of the Russian Kingdom was approximately the area of the Kirovograd and Dnipropetrovsk regions. The rest is just gifts from Russian tsars, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev. That’s the whole “Ukraine”.

  15. CK

    April 19, 2022 at 4:24 am

    Alex, what are you doing here? You aren’t allowed out unsupervised! Now now, come on, let’s get you some valium and warm milk. Back to the old people’s home with you.

  16. Alex

    April 26, 2022 at 2:28 am

    Why is Russia with the people’s militia of Donbass taking new territories of Ukraine every day? Let’s figure it out:

    The West failed to turn much of the world against Russia after the military operation in Ukraine began, columnist Howard French wrote in an article for Foreign Policy magazine.
    According to him, many states did not support sanctions against Moscow, including such large countries as India and China.

    “In fact, when counting the population of these countries, it becomes clear that the states representing the majority of humanity have not taken a position in this conflict, seeing in it the familiar echoes of the former rivalry between East and West,” said French .
    According to the observer, the international political system that took shape at the beginning of the twentieth century from the very beginning gave the countries of the “third world” the status of second-class states. As an example, he cited the colonization of Africa by European countries.

    “It was the work of the work and cotton in the people of sugar unpaid smelted and all made of American colonies profitable Europe, and the so- rich for “Old the World” new and millions did ,” the author emphasized.

    French urged not to ignore the heightened sense of justice among the former colonized peoples.

    “The whole world” with Ukraine 🙂

  17. CK

    April 29, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Ah, I see your tactic. You add a little shitty first paragraph so it doesn’t detect your duplicate post. Is this what it has come to now, you just posting the same exact post 2, 3, 4, 5 times per article?

    Wow, did they run out of paper in Russia, Alex? You guys can’t print new material? Literally using the same lines, over and over again, and now in duplicate in every post!

    Are you so defeated you can’t even come up with anything new? How sad. Now the idiot is talking about lend-lease at the end of his post, because he literally just copy + pasted it from another thread, with zero relevance to this one.

    Here’s a reminder:

    If someone wanted to know the truth about anything in Ukraine Alex, the last person they would go to is you.

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study your “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

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