How the Situation in Ukraine Could Get Far More Dangerous: After days of a withering Ukrainian counteroffensive, the Russian defense ministry announced that it was withdrawing its forces from two areas in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. In a video statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky quipped, “The Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do — showing its back.” Ukrainians celebrated, and rightly so. While Russian spokesmen said that Russian forces were “repositioning” ahead of a new offensive, reporters on the ground cast doubt on such pronouncements both because they mirror Russian statements as it abandoned its drive toward Kyiv and also because Russian forces left in such great haste that they left numerous arms and equipment behind.
Western officials are understandably happy. “This [Ukrainian progress] shows the bravery, skills, and determination of Ukrainian forces, and it shows that our support is making a difference every day on the battlefield,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a September 9 press conference. Reflecting on his recent trip to Ukraine, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken observed at the same press conference, “Even as President Putin threw as much as he could against Ukraine earlier this summer, Ukraine absorbed the blow and now is pushing back.”
While it is right to celebrate the Russian rout, the war may be entering a far more dangerous phase.
Consider: If Russian President Vladimir Putin tired of attrition and decided to use tactical nuclear weapons, how would Russian behavior—a rapid withdrawal and even leaving key equipment behind—be different? The answer: It would not be.
The Biden administration allowed fear of Russian nuclear weapons to self-deter and to limit deliveries of the weaponry that Ukrainian forces needed in the first weeks of the war. Fortunately, against the backdrop of Ukrainian perseverance, they recognized how unbecoming a policy governed by fear and weakness could be. That does not mean, however, that the United States and NATO should not have a contingency plan both to head off Russian use of nuclear weapons and respond to their use should Putin now cross the line.
The White House and U.S. intelligence community may feel confident that they will have forewarning should Putin give the order to deploy tactical nuclear weapons. They may believe that satellite photographs, signals intelligence, and human intelligence will provide a clear picture. The nature of intelligence, however, is that there is always doubt and deception. Just as late Al Qaeda leader Usama Bin Laden used old-fashioned messengers rather than email or cell phones, so too might some core Russian commanders. During its 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah successfully demonstrated the ability to conceal long-range missiles, thanks both to diversions designed to be discovered as well as other underground facilities, all built by North Korean engineers. This is not to suggest a North Korean angle to Ukraine, but certainly, Russian strategists look at lessons learned from every conflict.
Nor is it necessarily true that Putin would try to hide in advance tactical nuclear warhead use. In 2012, President Barack Obama drew a “redline” around the use of chemical and biological weapons in Syria. When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces subsequently used chemical weapons against a Damascus suburb, Obama stood down. Partisans subsequently questioned the existence of a redline. This was disingenuous as senior Obama officials had supplemented press reporting at the time with background press calls to think tankers and opinion leaders to enunciate how serious Obama was about his redline. When that wordplay did not work, many opposed to enforcing the redline shifted tack and argued that from the perspective of the bombs’ victims, it mattered little whether their death came from gas or explosive maiming. After all, the result was the same. Lost was any appreciation for what the end to the stigma associated with chemical weapons might mean for future warfare.
Putin might count on proponents fearful of any robust reaction to resurrect the post-chemical redline arguments in the aftermath of a tactical nuclear strike. He might calculate that Washington and Brussels will always look for a reason not to act or escalate and that both will be willing to engage in logical somersaults to do so. Simply put, Putin might calculate that Washington will paralyze itself until the danger of retaliation passes.
It is for this reason that the White House and NATO should make clear upfront that this will not work. They should detail the pain Russia will suffer should withdrawal be a feint ahead of tactical nuclear use against Ukrainian forces and cities. Such pain should not only include truly crippling sanctions rather than cosmetic half-measures but also include enhancing the ability of Ukraine to expand the zone of hostility to the entirety of Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. They should also detail the eventual financial and territorial reparations owed to Ukraine and all countries downwind from any radioactive exposure as well as those countries long victimized by the Russian informal empire.
The free world owes Zelensky a debt of gratitude for refusing White House advice to evacuate ahead of the initial Russian invasion. Biden, to his credit, overcame that mistake and allowed Ukraine’s president to do more than any leader since Winston Churchill to defend freedom and democracy in the face of evil. Zelensky deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
The policy decisions now looming for Biden may be as great. Celebrations may be premature if Putin seeks to achieve through nuclear weapons what he could not with manpower. To remain silent now, downplay the threat that Russia might use its tactical nuclear weapons, or let fear govern policy will mean the end of the post-World War II liberal order.
As the Ukraine war enters a crucial new phase, it is time both to step up deterrence and plan for what comes after Russian first use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).
September 10, 2022 at 8:31 pm
If Putin uses some <5kt. nukes to turn the tide of the war it would open a Pandora's box of all things bad. Retaliation by Ukraine with western supervision and planning would be swift and would be nuclear. The escalation would bleed over into NATO states. The gloves would be off and WW3 will have begun.
by the way…. that's a MZKT-79221 mobile ICBM TEL in the pic and not a tactical weapon system. It's cool and really a bad boy though.
September 10, 2022 at 8:40 pm
A barking doesn’t bite.
The Russian Dog has been barking since the beginning. The Russians have threatened nuclear attack over 30 times. If they were really serious, they would have said nothing to hide their intentions.
Their threats have worked to an extent. Weakling Biden has refused to provide longer ranged HIMARS missiles, and transfers of combat aircraft.
Bullies/megalomaniacs prefer to be live Hyenas, rather than dead Lions. Putin can legitimately blame his loss in Ukraine to NATO support of the Ukraine, which is true.
September 10, 2022 at 8:53 pm
Vlad is an old fox . Obama is a young coon . My money is on Vlad . He is fighting for righteousness . Bath House Barry is fighting for Globohomo .
September 10, 2022 at 9:45 pm
Deter with what?
We have about 450 Minuteman threes dating to the 60’s all of which are slated to be replaced. There is a number of nuclear missiles on our US Navy Subs But fewer of them. You can assume each one has a Russian Attack Submarine with them as we used to do on theirs individually when at sea. and then there are the bombers. Some of them anyway. The rest have been essentially castrated when the nuclear stuff was taken off them under clear skies with Russia.
A few thousand warheads of a variety of weapons systems will have to come out of storage. Those sites are known. Such as in Turkey. That one has about 50 warheads. Turkey is fixing to make war with Greece which will eliminate its status as NATO and the first thing we will need to do is get those nukes out of that Nation.
I suppose there are very specific weapons that will be good to have in a tactical nuclear war. Little firecrackers. But why stop there? Break out the megatonnage. Takes only one, or in this case two to dance.
September 10, 2022 at 10:17 pm
“To remain silent now, downplay the threat that Russia might use its tactical nuclear weapons, or let fear govern policy will mean the end of the post-World War II liberal order.”
May I say that it is the post-WW2 liberal order that got us to this point. I’m not gung-ho to die for it.
September 10, 2022 at 11:48 pm
The only reason people around Putin went along with his insane idea is because they thought it would work out. With nukes it’s different and I doubt Russians would go along with that. Resorting to nukes is not about winning, it’s suicidal and even if Putin has lost his marbles, I am sure there are people around him who’d stop him from going nuclear. Bottom line is, if he is allowed to hold the planet at gunpoint with his nuclear arsenal, there is nothing he can’t ask for, today Ukraine, tomorrow Latvia, and the reasoning would always be the same, let’s cave in, that dude has nukes.
Yeaaah no! This ends now.
September 11, 2022 at 12:14 am
What’s missing here is any hint that the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield would give Russia a winning tactical advantage, let alone be worth the broader strategic DISadvantages that would surely follow.
The Cold War conditions where tactical nukes were useful were few. Useful against mass tank columns through the Fulda Gap. Useful against massing Chinese infantry attacks in Korea. Maybe useful against seaports off-loading reinforcements from the US and Canada.
One case where nukes would have been useful and still might be today is against logistic centers. But today the most useful NATO weapons can be airlifted into multiple local runways. Ukranian manpower is indigenous and needn’t travel on troop ships or long trains. Their ports are already blockaded.
Be the first to use nukes to kill people and Russia will soon be surrounded by fresh nuclear-armed enemies on the East and the West as the Non-Proliferation Treaty becomes null and void.
Putin would be stupid to be the first since Nagasaki to use nukes. But I thought he’d be stupid to invade Ukraine too.
September 11, 2022 at 3:25 am
Margarita Simonyonspouted that Russia merciless obliterate Ukraine what a backward batch of should I say witch for the mindless ogre gargoil mouthed unforgivable savage comments against Ukraine and showed what common Russian fascists all all about, sadism.murdering, and misery and she the ugly gargoyles batch is a monster lookalike.
September 11, 2022 at 3:30 am
The moment Putin seriously thinks about going nuclear, he is dead.
September 11, 2022 at 3:43 am
Nukes aren’t being used.
Maybe Putin is being forced to withdraw in some capacity due to pressure.
Nuking a country you’re trying to occupy for its strategic purposes isn’t wise.
September 11, 2022 at 4:41 am
When winter arrives at year end or very soon, the situation in Europe will begin becoming too complicated for Biden.
Meaning, he will have to decide whether or not to supply zelenskiyy with nukes. This is because moscow would by then already have launched a coupla quick nukes at ukro forces, especially the dnipro battalions, the donbas battalions, the azov battalions and the Right Sector battalions that are spearheading the assault.
The rest of the world will become too busy grappling with inflation, general shortages and currency speculation and devaluation to bother about biden’s actions or decisions.
September 11, 2022 at 5:21 am
What the Russian MoD calls a tactical withdrawal was most likely just disorganised flight by Russian forces. Therefore… probably not part of a dastardly plan.
September 11, 2022 at 6:07 am
the comment was made much earlier – should nuclear weapons be used, NATO becomes fully involved in the war.. There can be no half-measures…
September 11, 2022 at 7:23 am
Its hard to govern people you evaporate.
The Ukrainian pride is no different than the pride the Russians had to protect their homeland in WWII. In both cases citizens will give their life to stop an invasion which threatens their families.
Admit a mistake.
Ghost of Kiev
September 11, 2022 at 9:16 am
You don’t just give up real estate lives paid for. Russia most likely has completed its mission and has the information they sought. Or they’re was a possible threat in the area.
As for the liberal world order, it’s an absolute shitshow. 20 years in the middle east, millions of lives lost and trillions of dollars wasted. Now add inflation, the energy crisis around the globe, and disease spread through international travel. Besides that it’s going just great. Lol
September 11, 2022 at 10:00 am
Deploying nuclear weapons intentionally would be a political disaster for Putin that would turn more independent counties against them and strengthen the resolve of those who are currently supplying weapons to Ukraine.
Plus, if you were going to use a tactical nuke, why use it in the eastern areas that you plan to annex? Instead, use it to pollute western Ukraine.
I would be far more concerned about nuclear activity if troops were suddenly pulled from the areas downwind of Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. An “accidental” bombing of that facility could create a nuclear event without actually deploying a weapon.
September 11, 2022 at 10:07 am
I honestly think Putin is crazy enough to use a Nuke. I don’t see him pulling out and saying ok we are done here. His health is bad and he knows his people already hate him for this so he’s gonna say game on!
OIF Combat Vet
September 11, 2022 at 10:59 am
Well, if that happens it will end Biden’s and military industrial complex’s proxy war on Russia and we will stop wasting 10s of Billions of dollars on Ukraine’s money pit…and start fixing our own border.
September 11, 2022 at 11:02 am
Russia is capable of firing enough rockets to level Ukraine without using nukes, the way some of these commentators and writers talk about the war makes me think they just want to see russia suffer and not see peace between both parties, unfortunately as the war progresses many more people will suffer and the possibility of NATO getting sucked into the fight becomes more likely, then nukes would be used and civilization will be sent back 200 years.
Ignoring the underlying grievances Russia had and NATO indifference to the prospect of war while painting a rosy picture of the situation for Ukraine is sickening propaganda.
The standard of living in Europe will drop horrendously and Ukrainians will continue to suffer as Russians hold onto seized territories indeffinently. The only possible solution is through diplomacy and western nations seem dead set on that not happening.
September 11, 2022 at 11:14 am
If Vlad The Impaler dares to use Tactical Nukes…it’s the end of The World. Aside from that, Ukraine’s proximity to Russia would spread Nuclear Contamination to Russia as well. Let’s pray that Putin is taken down or out. The World can’t afford a Nuclear Exchange…everyone is a loser.
September 11, 2022 at 11:14 am
Nukes? Would never put it out of the realm of possibilities with Russia. However, I think there is a far different game of attrition going on. All offensives usually result in heavy loss of life. Given reports, Ukrainian forces are making huge advances but at great cost in both man power and weaponry. I don’t think they have a choice because the Ukrainians know they are going to lose support in the West as winter sets in. On the other hand, the Russians are betting the Ukrainians won’t get far enough before the true cost sets in across Europe and the West shifts their attention internally as they deal with their own issues of citizens choosing between food and heat. Only time will tell which approach wins out.
September 11, 2022 at 11:59 am
“Zelensky deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.” be worth about as much as Obama’s…
September 11, 2022 at 12:49 pm
Learn from history.
USSR was proper totalitarian; now Russia is just thug-hooligan.
The totalitarian USSR stepped back from the brink not once, but twice.
A cornered sub in Cuban crisis refused to launch nukes despite direct order.
Later a nuclear launch order was ignored despite explicit instructions.
Yes, USSR downed KAL007, but that was mere murder, not war.
puny putin will not dare, not be allowed, to use nukes.
September 11, 2022 at 1:46 pm
I would not be surprised if Russia use tactical nukes. Russia will not allow to be humiliated by Ukrainian army, strongly backed by USA. It is very pragmatical step for Russia too.
Very sad and disturbing. But this is sad reality in my opinion…
September 11, 2022 at 3:50 pm
Neutron Bomb. Google it.
What makes all you people think Slo Joe’s handlers would have us “respond in kind” ?
September 11, 2022 at 4:11 pm
Using tactical nuclear weapons might create more favorable battlefield conditions for the Russians, at least temporarily, but their use would be a disaster for the Russians on the world stage.
The Russians have Europe in a headlock over energy. With winter coming, the Europeans’ resolve to continue to support the Ukraine could crumble if the Russians maintain their embargo of natural gas.
But a nuclear escalation just might do the trick in solidifying European resolve. Especially if any of the fallout travels west. I don’t know what the response would be but bending the knee in exchange for resumption of natural gas supply would probably not be one of them.
September 11, 2022 at 5:02 pm
This crap would not be happening if “orange man bad” was POTUS …. As he should be ….and not cheated out of it
but, mean tweets and all ……
September 11, 2022 at 5:33 pm
This situation has become increasingly fraught. Ukrainian peasants are killing Russian peasants, and vice versa. That is the simple truth of the situation. Neither group of peasants had anything to do with the tangled web of political shenanigans that’ve lead the world to this point. They’ve had no real input, nor profit, from the maneuvers. And yet, when politics fail, it’s their lives – as ever – that gets spent.
Who’s ultimately at fault? At this point, what does it matter? The acrimony dates back centuries at least; and whilst certain politicians have made insane amounts of money, they didn’t start this fire. Nor do they have to suffer to put it out.
Was Russia wrong to invade? Yes. Was Ukraine wrong to court NATO? Yes. Was Ukraine stupid to give up the nukes when they broke from the crumbling USSR? In retrospect, yes. Was the USSR wrong for not outright conquering their borderland? Probably.
It doesn’t matter. As ever, the people who make those decisions ensure they’re untroubled by the wailing of women who’s boys have murdered each other.
A pox on all their houses.
September 11, 2022 at 7:30 pm
This isnt a setting of a stage for a tac nuke strike. It is a rout. What are the Russians going to hit? The Ukrainians that just pushed them out. I dont think Russia will nuke the land they paid for in blood. Whats the point? Make the territory you want useless.
September 11, 2022 at 10:25 pm
Anyone who thinks Russia will lose this war is deluding themselves. They will turn Ukraine into a radioactive wasteland before that happens. They did it before in 1986 to parts of it. They can’t lose face and need to show the world they mean business.
September 11, 2022 at 11:33 pm
If they were to use tactical nukes it won’t be in the east so close to their own border, but in western supply and command centers. They are moving out, because they are actually getting smacked. We need a very slow Ukrainian victory to fully bleed up Russia and speed up the already set in motion in 1989 process of dismemberment.
September 11, 2022 at 11:38 pm
Putin knows the Russian civilization is two nukes away from being put in the pages of history: St Petersbug and Moskah. NATO knows that too.
September 12, 2022 at 6:56 am
America does nothing but sponsor and inflate military conflicts around the world. It would be better to think about their citizens, make universities free and medicine, than to send money to someone else’s war.
September 12, 2022 at 8:48 am
Ukraine lost the war they are losing thousands of troops a day on every supposed military operation so the Russians are retreating & drawing what’s left of Ukraine’s broke military into a trap to totally obliterate them. If you hadn’t heard from Western propaganda Russia took out a large swaths of power in Ukraine yesterday which has cascaded into parts of Moldova & Poland also Ukraine has as of now effectively No Internet. It’s over for Ukraine time for their Generals to assassinate the Cocaine Comedy Clown President & settle with Russia oh wait FJB won’t allow that.
September 12, 2022 at 9:37 am
The world do not owe Zelensky, anything ,his incompetent led to Ukraine,being invaded,their a doctrine in law, contributing negligence,I live free all my life,and I will continue to free ,I was born free,not like Zelensky was born under oppression in the Soviet Union,only thing common with Zelensky and Churchill,is Zelensky will come up lame like a horse that raced at Churchill Down
September 12, 2022 at 10:32 am
The Russian pull back was a trap the Ukrainians fell right into. When they attached, Russia had them flanked and took them out. About 4,000 of them I have read. Also, yesterday, Russian ships and subs launched cruise missiles and took out most of the Ukraine’s power plants. Appears the Ukraine is about done. Nuclear weapons are just talk. Western Media likes the fear porn. I also doubt the MSM will admit to any of this.
September 12, 2022 at 10:42 am
I’ve heard Intel last night that the Russians have sent a missle barrage into Ukraine knocking out most power throughout the country. Their strategic bombers have come in and are bombing the incapacitated trains full of armaments. The Russians have also jammed signals from all the starlink sattelites over Ukraine. Something major is going on.
September 12, 2022 at 10:45 am
I noticed that the news didn’t cover the missile attacks on the Ukraine power stations.
You see, what Russia wanted was for the Nazis (yes REAL Nazis) to quit shelling and killing people in the Donbass region. It was a military operation in order to drive them out of that area. It wasn’t a war, but NATO sure needs and wants one. If it had been a war then the first thing Russia would have done was to do what they did yesterday. Take out the power infrastructure so troop movements are hampered. Next the water supply. Then comms. It would seem that they’ve already jammed StarLink which is how the Uke military is getting targeting and other tactical information. No, they poked the bear one too many times and instead of a growl they just got swatted.
Oh, and look for an actual declaration of war coming in the next few days. That’s when the gloves REALLY come off.
September 12, 2022 at 4:02 pm
a lot of misinformation propaganda here
September 12, 2022 at 4:36 pm
Maybe they are running because they were told Poop’n is going to NUKE that area?
TELL THE TRUTH...
September 12, 2022 at 5:05 pm
Tell the truth.. dis idiot who wrote this rag has no clue. Assad never used chemical weapons. Those weapons were used by CIA AND MOSSAD TRAINED AND FUNDED ISIS…. SO MANY LIES AND SO MUCH MISINFORMATION…..
September 12, 2022 at 6:46 pm
Rubin is an idiot.
September 13, 2022 at 2:55 am
Rubin pitches western propaganda that was debunked years ago in the case of Syria and today in the well-worn but equally as wrong ‘Ukes are winning’ mantra.
NEWSFLASH: if the Ukrainian forces were winning for as long as Rubin and the west has claimed, the war would be in Russia by now…
September 13, 2022 at 2:59 am
Why would Russia resort to a nuke, when in about 10 weeks, Europe will dive into a deep freeze. They don’t need a nuke, With the help of the US and NATO, the EU is self destructing very well by itself, and much of Ukraine has been turned into rubble. I hear reports from Czechia, people are hoarding wood and coal, if they can get it, energy costs have in some cases gone up 800%. Industry is shutting down as they cannot afford to the energy to operate. No country can withstand this kind of punishment. A nuke? you are nuts. All Russia has to do is sit and wait, the EU will self destruct all by itself, and the US with its 30 trillion debt is not far behind. A dark winter indeed. To weaken Russia militarily with “whatever it takes” strategy is a ship of fools. You better get another captain to command the ship. This one is sinking. Too much damn funny money being printed, and that my dear friends never ever ends well.
September 13, 2022 at 11:32 am
Imagine thinking that Russia has actually retreated.
September 13, 2022 at 2:42 pm
Both sides in this conflict take their orders from the same dark side source. All wars have been this way. The end game is nuclear war and destruction of the surface population, but this will not be allowed by Source. The dark side is rapidly losing all of their resources including money, manpower, and technology via Operation Lincoln Logs. A recent example of their failure is the prevention of the Chicago Trade Center being blown up yesterday and plunging the markets like they did on 9/11/2001. Projected adverse outcomes always come from the dark side to create fear and control. Stay positive. The planet will be restored to its original glory!
September 13, 2022 at 7:20 pm
Everybody knows what’s going to happen everybody knows already I see all kinds of opinions all I know is so far everything Putin said he’d do he’s done that’s what I look at words are one thing they’re worth nothing actions always speak louder than words and as of today he’s pounding Ukraine into the dirt Ukraine is not a democracy it was a democracy the United States overthrew it in 2006 and put bioweapons Labs all around Russia any of you people that doesn’t stand with Russia or a retard this country you’re in is Babylon and it’s going down hard and I hope it takes all the people that think like you with it Russia’s the last true Christian Nation on the Earth not America it’s for Satan they sacrifice their children in America by the billions they drink their blood these are monsters that run the world and you people are all stupid as hell because you’re lazy you’re lazy and you know what the Lord said be Watchers on the wall he does not say be lazy and it was a commandment it wasn’t a suggestion he commanded it Jesus Christ commanded it and none of you are doing it and you’re all going to pay the price
September 14, 2022 at 5:00 pm
The reason I think Putin will never launch a nuclear weapon is that it takes two people to turn the keys, and I have the feeling that, that other person will likely blow Putin’s brains out. The fact that he’s dying doesn’t mean that he has to take all Russians with him, and I believe life preservation , if the people don’t kill him , a high official will .