Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has suggested that Russia would use nuclear weapons in the event that Ukraine achieves a breakthrough and regains territory that Russia has conquered and annexed. The state of Russian morale has been the center of debate and attention.
“Just imagine that the offensive… in tandem with NATO, succeeded and ended up with part of our land being taken away. Then we would have to use nuclear weapons by virtue of the stipulations of the Russian Presidential Decree,” Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said in a Telegram post.
Russia considers the Donbas, southern Ukraine, and Crimea to be its territories.
Vladimir Putin: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Vladimir Putin has warned since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that he would consider using nuclear weapons. A 2020 executive order signed by Putin states that Russia would use nuclear weapons in the event that the existence of the state were threatened.
He has become a bit like the boy who cried wolf. Nobody believes he will follow through with his threats because he has not done so in the nearly two years of war. The war in Ukraine has become a meat grinder for both sides, and Putin’s army suffers from poor morale.
“This grim outlook helps to explain why Putin is playing the nuclear card. His nuclear threats may ring hollow, but they are too serious to be disregarded completely and he knows it. At the same time, the international community cannot afford to let Putin’s intimidation tactics succeed,” Peter Dickinson, editor of the Atlantic Council’s Ukraine Alert wrote. “If he finds himself faced with the prospect of decisive military defeat, Putin will almost certainly escalate his nuclear blackmail to new levels of danger. At that point, the international community must unite to prevent Russia from dragging the world into catastrophe.”
Putin Likely Bluffing With Nuke Threat
So far, a stalemate persists along a 600-mile front. Russia’s conscript army suffers from a high rate of desertion and poor morale, but it has managed to largely grind Ukraine’s offensive to a halt. That could change as Ukraine’s military becomes better trained and equipped, but that likely will not happen in the short-term.
Russian troops are well dug-in; however, if the army were to mutiny and decide to go home and abandon what Moscow considers Russian territory it could lead to greater desperation in Putin’s mind. Such a course of events is highly unlikely.
A collapse of Russian forces no matter how unlikely it is at this point would challenge Ukrainian logistics.
“The Moscow government would doubtless issue an ultimatum that Ukraine must not infringe into areas of Donbas under Russian control before 24 February and, above all, that it must not enter the Crimean Peninsula. Moscow would make plain its willingness to use nuclear weapons to protect its territorial integrity,” RUSI Senior Fellow Tim Willasey-Wilsey CMG wrote in a commentary on the group’s site. “Furthermore, a power struggle in Moscow would raise questions about the command authority over the Russian nuclear arsenal. In the words of a former senior UK defence official, ‘Mutiny would by definition destroy the reliability of the chain of command’.”
Putin likely would only resort to using nuclear weapons in the event his rule is directly threatened by Ukraine.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.
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