Now you can start your own nuclear war online and see what Putin could do in Ukraine: Few world leaders have been as blunt as Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin when it comes to the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. As a former KGB spy, he has honed his “poker face,” and Western analysts are still trying to determine whether his stance to employ such weapons of mass destruction is in fact a massive bluff, or whether he’d actually do the unthinkable and risk nuclear annihilation.
Some analysts now believe he might use one or more smaller “tactical nuclear weapons” in an effort to stave off military defeat in Ukraine, but also to protect his presidency, and even to force Kyiv into capitulation. However, it isn’t just Putin who is saber rattling with the threat to employ nuclear weapons.
Dmitry Medvedev, a close ally and supporter of Putin – so much so that he is dismissively known as “Little Dima” by some in Russia due both to his short stature, but also his utter subservience to his master – has also said Russia has the will, even the right to employ such horrific weapons. Medvedev, who serves as Russia’s security council chief, said that Russia’s laws around the use of nuclear weapons allow it to retaliate with them even if it is attacked with conventional weapons that threaten “the very existence of our state.”
Essentially, the Kremlin’s utter bungling of its “special military operation” against Ukraine has gone so badly that Putin and his lapdogs find themselves pushed into a corner, and all they may have left is a not-so-proverbial “nuclear option.”
The Kremlin may be considering such escalation after Russia is now poised to annex four Ukrainian regions that it currently partly occupies. Russia’s parliament is expected to declare those regions part of Russia on Oct. 4, and once that happens, Moscow could find its territory threatened, and thus launch a possible defensive strike.
Some experts warn that such use of nuclear weapons remains unlikely. Even if it somehow doesn’t escalate to a global nuclear war, it could bring down the entire Russian regime. As The Atlantic reported, such use of weapons would only turn nearly the entire world – including such nations as China and India – completely against Russia.
What Could Russia Do?
Russia’s combat aircraft, as well as many of its conventional missile and rocket launchers, are able to deliver smaller, tactical nuclear weapons. Such weapons could be employed close to the battlefield, which wouldn’t likely be detected much in advance of impact. That is likely a serious concern for some in the west, as it is far easier to determine if Russia might be planning a strategic strike with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which require putting specific units on alert.
The question is what such a strike could look like. There are many simulations used in various think tanks and government agencies, but for everyone else, there is the “NUKEMAP,” which was created by Dr. Alex Wellerstein, an expert on nuclear weapons, while he was an associate historian at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland.
Currently, an assistant professor of science and technology studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and author of the book Restricted Data, Wellerstein has continued to upgrade the map. It can now determine the difference between an airburst and a surface burst, and even offers models for fallout and casualties.
Users can determine a city to “nuke” and provide estimated fatalities and injuries from bombs ranging from the M28 “Davy Crockett,” the smallest nuclear warhead developed by the U.S. military during the Cold War, to the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever created by the Soviet Union. There is also a range of advanced settings that can show the radius where individuals would face an increased lifetime cancer risk, degree of burns, size of a blast crater, and even the overpressure created by a detonation.
Since it went live a decade ago, there have been more than 277.8 million detonations conducted on the website. Hopefully, there won’t be any in the real world in the coming days or weeks.
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.