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NATO’s Nightmare: Could Putin’s War in Ukraine Become a Nuclear War?

Russia
M65 Nuclear Weapon. Image Credit: US Military.

On day 210 of the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin upped the ante by declaring a partial mobilization in his country.

Putin also signaled that he wouldn’t hesitate to use nuclear weapons in the event that the territorial integrity of Russia is threatened.

The Situation on the Battlefield in Ukraine

Putin’s decision to partially escalate comes at a point in time when the Russian military is really faltering in Ukraine. The Russian forces are on the retreat on two of the three main fronts.

In the south, a long-prepared Ukrainian counteroffensive is edging closer to Kherson and Zaporizhzhia by the day, using long-range strikes, mainly M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), to do much of the work and soften up the Russian defenses.

In the east, a Ukrainian counteroffensive surprised the Russians and the world by liberating thousands of square miles of territory in less than a week. In what was initially thought to be a counterattack of opportunity to throw the Russian forces around Kharkiv off balance, the Ukrainian offensive turned into a major operation that pushed the Russians hundreds of miles back, captured vast quantities of materiel, and hamstrung the Russian offensive operations in the Donbas by cutting them off from their major logistical and command and control hubs (Kupyansk and Izium).

The Russian Casualties in Ukraine

Against the backdrop of Putin’s declaration is the high rate of Russian casualties. The Russian military simply doesn’t have enough men to go around on the frontline and has been suffering as a result.

For weeks now, the Russian forces have been on the strategic defense, with only some limited ground assaults in the Donbas breaking the monotony.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 55,110 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 253 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 217 attack and transport helicopters, 2,227 tanks, 1,340 artillery pieces, 4,748 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 318 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 15 boats and cutters, 3,610 vehicles and fuel tanks, 168 anti-aircraft batteries, 932 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 125 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 239 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

Sham Referenda 

On Tuesday, pro-Russian administration officials from Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia provinces made a joint announcement that they will conduct referenda to join Russia.

Moscow established some precedent regarding these referenda when it formally recognized the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic on February 21, just three days before the Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

“The Russian civilian and military leadership has faced significant pressure over the last two weeks. These new measures have highly likely been brought forwards due to public criticism and mark a further development in Russia’s strategy,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

The successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east, which liberated swaths of territory around Kharkiv and is starting to recapture territory in Luhansk, and the ongoing counteroffensive in the south toward Kherson and Zaporizhzhia have shaken the pro-Russian officials and precipitated their decision to hold sham referenda.

Terminator Tank Ukraine

Terminator. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

“Putin is accepting greater political risk by undermining the fiction that Russia is neither in a war nor a national crisis in the hope of generating more combat power,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Nick

    September 21, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    I might just be a stupid chap.

    It strikes me that as Putin is raising the stakes, NATO should enforce a no fly zone above Ukraine and give the Ukrainians what they need.

    This was always going to end up in total war unless it (as it should have been) was stopped in the cusp.

    I am not scared of nuclear war, and nor should anybody else. It is decided by people much higher than us and we either swim or die. It is what it is.

    One man can not define the fate of the world and needs to be dealt with in short sharp measures that hurt him personally. Blow up his bloody big estate. Simple things will send him over the edge and he will be replaced.

    For better or worse, who knows.

    We are not sheep!

  2. Illurion

    September 21, 2022 at 9:17 pm

    CALL THE BASTARD’S BLUFF WITH CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS AT FIRST.

    Putin has decided to send 300,000 more troops to attack Ukraine, and expects Ukarine and NATO to just “GIVE UP”, because Ptuin threatens to use his nukes.

    CALL HIS BLUFF.

    WE HAVE NUKES TOO.

    * OUR GOAL SHOULD BE TO TAKE BACK ALL OF THE FORMER UKRAINIAN LANDS, INCLUDING CRIMEA, AND RESTORE THE “OLD”, PRE-2014 BORDER.

    to do this:

    * We must take Crimea back from Russia by destroying Crimea.

    * Give Ukraine long range conventional missiles and bombers that can:

    – carpet bomb the entire Crimean peninsula and reduce it to rubble. be just as cruel as the Russians. make no attempt to prevent civilian casualties.

    * Give Ukraine long range conventional missiles that can:

    – destroy all of Russia’s oil fields, and refineries. the only reason Russia has survived the current sanctions is because they can SELL OIL. destroy the Russian oil, and you destroy Russia.

    * The next time Russia bombs Ukrainian infrastructure, CARPET BOMB AND DESTROY THE RUSSIAN BORDER CITY OF BELGOROD. and announce that Russian infrastructure for Moscow WILL BE NEXT.

    * There are approximately 12 remaining Russian capital ships remaining in the Black Sea Fleet. USE MISSILES AND SINK THEM ALL IN ONE MASSIVE ATTACK AT NIGHT.

    Show Putin that BOTH SIDES can escalate……

    Show Putin that we are no longer going to be NICE.

  3. Walker

    September 21, 2022 at 9:56 pm

    Nick, I am afraid of nuclear war and I think we all should. However, we can not let fear dictate how we act. We must strive to do what is right and Putin’s bullying attacks can not be allowed to be effective.

    I don’t think that NATO or any country should become directly involved in the war. This is something that Ukraine needs to do for themselves. However, they should be given all the tools to succeed. Including F-16s. I personally would love to see some American fighters destroy those Russian jets. But we must be careful and not give Putin tools to control his own people.

  4. xheavy

    September 21, 2022 at 11:32 pm

    No fly with what?

    We shoot down russian planes, helicopters and so on. Drones too. They shoot back.

    It spirals into a European Wide war then the USA gets involved at home when additional RU units attack.

    Most people dont understand about a dozen warheads applied to our aircraft industry across the board will simply render us no longer a flying anything and that would be that for a very very very long time.

  5. Yrral

    September 22, 2022 at 12:00 am

    The American people did not sign up for a suicide pact, especially to protect foreign interest

  6. Yrral

    September 22, 2022 at 12:55 pm

    All you people fascinated by what a nuke could do to city Google Nukemap

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