Ukraine and the Nuclear Question – The War in Ukraine is escalating yet again. In the wake of the recent attack on the Kakhovka Dam along the Dnipro River, an environmental as well as human catastrophe has been created.
The Russians accuse the Ukrainians for the attack. Moscow, meanwhile, blames the Ukrainians. Whoever is to blame, the fact remains that this is a clear escalation in the already dangerous war. This, after a drone attacked the Kremlin in a dramatic fashion several weeks ago.
Strangely, the Russians have resisted the nuclear temptation—despite having threatened it repeatedly. One would think if the Russians were losing so badly as the press in the West claims, they’d be itching to pop off those nukes, and send a dramatic message to the West.
This is something I had originally assumed, too.
Most people I know at the Defense Department insist this is because Moscow knows that it has been checkmated and is simply trying to figure a politically sensible way out of its current quagmire.
Although, there does not appear to be any indication that Russia is looking for an off-ramp to dissuade the Ukrainians from launching their much-ballyhooed counteroffensive against Russia.
Is this because the Russians are being pig-headed and simply refusing to accept defeat, as the Western insists they are losing?
Some Important Questions
Or is it something more?
Do the Russians not think they are losing?
If Moscow doesn’t believe it is losing, then, we in the West can calm down about the fears of nuclear war erupting anytime soon.
And for all the talk about the removal of the dreaded Wagner Group from the fighting, that does not seem to be stopping the Russians militarily. In fact, the replacement of Wagner forces with Chechen fighters seems to be most troubling.
After all, it was the Chechen forces who savagely took Mariupol last May.
The Russians have made clear their red lines, though. Should the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive begin in earnest, and if it does appear to seriously threaten Russia’s hold on the strategically vital Crimean Peninsula, Moscow in my view will use nuclear weapons.
Maybe Russia Won’t Go Nuclear
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the grave concern about the prospects of Russia releasing the nuclear genie from its bottle.
I no longer have that concern. Especially if, as I suspect, the Russians aren’t—and don’t think they are—losing. Of course, things could change. This war is anything but predictable (what war is?)
Sadly, it does not appear like the Ukrainians are able to yet mount an effective counteroffensive against the Russian defensive lines. What the Ukrainians are doing presently is probing Russia’s defensive lines, looking for weaknesses to exploit.
As Ukraine desperately probes the Russian lines, focusing their combined arms efforts in the Donetsk region of Eastern Ukraine, they have yet to penetrate. But this is a much-needed learning lesson for the Ukrainians in how to properly use combined arms tactics.
Ukrainian forces have, much to my surprise, deployed a small number of German-built Leopard II main battle tanks (MBT) into that fray. My hopes and prayers ride with them—because Ukraine neither has enough MBTs to make a strategic difference nor do they have enough forces trained in the combined arms tactics that they need to make a difference at the strategic level.
I suspect that this is a practice run for whatever larger offensive against Russian-controlled Crimea that the Ukrainians have.
But waging war via combined arms ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy. This may all be for naught, seeing as the Ukrainian offensive, such as it is, has achieved little (it is, we are told, just getting started, though).
Make Everyone Desperate
Whoever may have destroyed the Kakhovka Dam, one thing is certain, its destruction means that the Russians will be unable to invade the Odessa region of Ukraine.
What’s more, the clean water supplies going into Russian-controlled Crimea have been destroyed, too.
Several months back, Russian forces evacuated the Russian population along the left side of the Dnipro River. Elements of the Russian military also began storing large quantities of potable water supplies in Crimea via the Kerch Strait, as if anticipating the coming destruction of the dam.
Plus, Russia removed the nuclear fuel from the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant long before the Kakhovka dam was destroyed.
Earlier this year, it is believed that Ukraine began attacking the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam-Bridge.
In fact, Ukraine began attacking many of the bridges linking the Russian-controlled side of Ukraine with the rest of Ukraine. This was done to slow down any Russian armor advance.
Moscow planned to use those bridges to send their tanks across the Dnipro River into the free parts of Ukraine. Ukraine accused Russia of attacking those bridges, but it made little sense for them to have done so.
Who Did This, Really?
On the other hand, Russia may have taken the precautionary measures I listed above in anticipation of enacting their plan to blow up the dam and stunt whatever Ukrainian counteroffensive was planned.
Of course, if the Russians were responsible for blasting the dam, they ended up killing many of their forces and obliterating some critical equipment. It’s definitely possible they did it.
The Russians can be crazy.
But, it’s also sensible that the Ukrainians would have done this attack.
After all, Ukraine is waging a desperate unconventional war for survival. They need all the help they can get. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Whichever side is behind the destruction of the dam, either Ukraine or Russia, that is the side is the most desperate in this fight.
If it’s the Ukrainians, it indicates that they are losing the war—and the Western press is protecting them.
If it is the Russians, then yes, they are desperate and, in their desperation, to avoid a catastrophic and humiliating defeat at the hands of the underdog Ukrainians, Moscow will be tempted to use nuclear weapons.
No End In Sight–Unless America Acts
What is clear, however, is that this war is far from over and much more blood will be spilled.
Rather than act as though there is nothing that we can do to help end this fight, Washington must use its leverage over Ukraine—and get Russia’s allies, notably those in Turkey, China, and India—to pressure Russia to sit down at a big, beautiful table, and negotiate a ceasefire that avoids these desperate, bloody-minded actors in Ukraine and Russia from doing something that none of us will be able to come back from.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.