Putin could nuke Ukraine in ‘scorched earth response’, says report

Russia: Nuclear weapons ‘not a deterrent’ claims Solovyov

Vladimir Putin could still use nuclear weapons in Ukraine as part of a “powerful destructive attack” unless Western powers threaten “devastating” consequences, an expert has warned. Russia’s President has frequently suggested nuclear weapons could be used as he becomes increasingly furious at responses from the West and aid that is continuing to be sent to Ukraine. In an address to the nation last year where he announced a mass mobilisation of troops, the tyrant warned Russia “will use all the means at our disposal” to defend itself, warning: “This is not a bluff.”

Last weekend, he ordered nuclear-capable missiles to be deployed to close ally and neighbouring Belarus.

In a report for the Chatham House foreign policy think tank, leading Russian expert Keir Giles says to stop the nuclear threat, Putin needs to be reminded of the huge consequences of his actions.

He said while the chances of of Russia following through with threats to use nuclear – or “non-zero” as he says – the possibility cannot be completely ruled out.

Mr Giles wrote: “A nuclear strike could be ordered if there is no longer any possibility of claiming conventional victory and a powerful destructive attack on Ukraine is perceived as the only means of avoiding admission of a clear defeat.

“One or more nuclear strikes could form part of a scorched earth response intended simply to cause misery and destruction in Ukraine in recognition of Russian failure to conquer it. The rationale being that if Russia can’t have Ukraine, nobody can.

“This would mirror, on a vastly greater scale, the behaviour of individual Russian soldiers and units when presented with the reality of life in Ukraine, where rather than aspiring to it themselves, they seek to destroy it.”

The expert claimed this is because “western nuclear powers have given Moscow grounds for confidence that there would not be retaliation in kind” – a situation he argued needs to be “urgently revised”.

He warned the comments the suggestions from Putin about a possible nuclear war have “disturbing aspects of Russia’s death cult and the idea that a ‘purifying apocalypse’ is something to be embraced”.

Mr Giles said: “Western powers were scrambling to appease Moscow based on just the threat of invasion,” said Giles, the author of Russia’s War on Everybody: And What it Means for You.

“But Putin was intent on invading anyway regardless of whether this was seen outside the Kremlin as a rational step or not.

“In short, the argument that Russia would not use nuclear weapons because it would clearly not be in Russia’s interest to do so falls down on the example, once again, of the invasion of Ukraine.”

He added pronouncements from Western leaders have not gone far enough to warn Putin of the consequences if he does indeed decide to use nuclear weapons.

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The expert continued: “In particular it must be made clear in entirely unambiguous terms that any use of nuclear weapons, whether tactical or not, in Ukraine or beyond, would bring consequences that would be devastating not just to Russia but to Putin personally.

“Given Putin’s understandable tendency to disregard Western words and be guided instead by Western actions, the clarity in messaging must be reinforced by discernible indicators of preparedness to follow through on it.”

Mr Giles argued Putin’s threats will “continue to have their desired effect” for as long as Western leaders “continue to state clearly that they are effective in preventing Ukraine being provided with the military support that it needs to win the war”.

If Russia was to decide on launching nuclear strikes, the move would actually have to be officially signed off by Putin himself.

Mr Giles also wrote in his report the Russian President will have to overcome possible resistance by more sober-minded officers to use nuclear weapons.

Last weekend, Putin said he was planning to store nuclear weapons in allied nation Belarus. He said Russia would train troops and construct a “special storage facility” for the weapons to arrive by July 1.

Russian state media outlet TASS reported him as saying: “We have already handed over to Belarus our well-known, very effective Iskander complex, it can also be a carrier.

“From April 3, we will start training the crew and on July 1 we will complete the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus.”

Putin added: “We agreed with [Belarusian president] Lukashenko that we would place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus without violating the non-proliferation regime.”

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