Speculation about whether or not Vladimir Putin used nuclear weapons is rife and the consequences could be disastrous for the West and the Russian President

Together with the blocking of the Russian invasion and the Ukrainian attack on the Kerch Bridge, both have helped to heighten fears that Putin will switch from conventional weapons to a tactical nuclear strike.

The American President Joe Biden said last week that the world was the closest to “Armageddon” at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, after more saber rattles from the Kremlin.

NATO says such a move would likely elicit a “physical response” from Ukraine, its allies and even NATO itself.

He said any use of nuclear weapons would have “unprecedented consequences” and that Moscow was using its nuclear threats primarily to deter NATO and other countries from intervening directly in Ukraine.

What steps could the West take if Putin goes nuclear?

Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk said NATO had several options if Putin had to make a “terrible” decision.

write in Foreign Affairs he said: ‘It might not even need a ground operation, the Western coalition could credibly tell the Kremlin that they would hit Russian capabilities with direct missile strikes and airstrikes, destroying its military installations and disabling its Black Sea Fleet.

“He could threaten to cut off all communications with electronic warfare and stage a cyber blackout against the entire Russian military.”

He added that “breaking the nuclear taboo” could also provoke repercussions from China and India, which would be another blow for the Kremlin.

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General David Petraeus says if Vladimir Putin uses tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield it will put Russia in a worse position.

Is the West doing anything to deter a nuclear attack?

Professor Michael Clarke, former chief executive of the Royal United Services Institute, said the Kremlin had already been warned of the consequences of the escalation.

He said: “When the tactical nuclear weapons threats were raised a few weeks ago, the United States and three or four NATO members personally contacted their counterparts in Russia and in the Russian General Staff. to say “don’t even think about it”.

“They won’t tell us what they said and neither should they because there has to be some uncertainty about it in order to maintain a deterrent effect, but what they seem to have said is above all “we will not be passive”.

“Second, we won’t go nuclear, but we’ll go conventional, and we have the conventional power to hit all your nuclear infrastructure and facilities. If we even think you’re going nuclear, if we see the preparations starting – we could attack you.

“That seems to have been the message.”

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Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News that NATO would carry out annual nuclear exercises to show it was ready.

Should the West do more now?

Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the latest Russian missile attacks in Ukraine were “a sad reminder that the most horrific pages of this horrible war are still before us”.

“The Kremlin’s response is becoming increasingly erratic, disproportionate and destructive,” he said.

Discussing Russia’s reaction to the explosion of the Kerch Bridge – a key road from Russia to Crimea – Mr Gabuev said it showed that Russia “still has a vast toolbox for the escalation”.

He said: “Given the high stakes and high emotions, the window for diplomacy is likely to open at the most dramatic time: for example, when Putin begins to unpack his nuclear toolbox, which will be visible to the public. NATO and will involve many signals by Moscow.

“Only then can Ukrainian and Western audiences be convinced of the urgency of negotiating.”

He added that the negotiations should involve President Biden “since the Kremlin considers him the only real leader of the opposing coalition” and the sooner they start the better.

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What do the Ukrainian people think?

A nuclear attack would not change the determination of the Ukrainian people to fight, said a Ukrainian MP.

Ukrainian MP Yelyzaveta Yasko told Kay Burley: “Cheese fries no longer makes any sense. It is no longer possible to justify Putin.

“We understand that he is in the last battle of his life where he wants to prove to the world that he can do whatever he wants, including taking land, killing thousands of people, destroying infrastructure, and us. understand that the nuclear threat and a strike is very possible, but that is not going to change much on the Ukrainian scene.

“Of course it’s a disaster. It’s catastrophic for me. It’s a great tragedy to see thousands of people being killed, injured, lives destroyed.

“But this will not change the rule of the Ukrainian people to restore justice and restore our territorial sovereignty.”

Read more

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Why the West Should Stop Looking So Worried About a Nuclear Attack

Ian Bond, of the Center for European Reform, says the West must stop being – and sounding – afraid of a nuclear attack.

He told the Doomsday Watch podcast: “Nothing is so provocative for Putin as weakness, so the more the West says ‘We’re afraid Russia will use nuclear weapons’, the more likely Putin will continue to threaten doom. ‘use nuclear weapons – and maybe even use one or two to demonstrate that he really means it.’

Bond says the message to Russia, which could be delivered privately, should be: “Please understand that if you go nuclear, we’ll consider the gloves off.”

While accepting that no one can “absolutely rule out” the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, he added: “We should stop scaring ourselves with the bogeyman that if the Ukrainians drive out the Russians, the Russians are going to go nuclear. , I just don’t buy that.”

Special event at the Imperial War Museum on the conflict in Ukraine

You can get tickets here for a special event at the Imperial War Museum in London about the war in Ukraine.

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