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Russian President Vladimir Putin subtly discussed the potential of a nuclear attack against anybody who interfered in the fight at the commencement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The following are some of the fundamental concerns concerning the likelihood, which many experts and Western diplomats believe is distant, that Putin will deploy nuclear weapons.

In his speech announcing the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Putin issued a veiled but unequivocal threat that if the West participated in what he has described as a “special military operation,” he may respond with nuclear weapons.

“No matter who tries to stand in our way or … create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history,” he said according to a Kremlin translation.

Three days later, on Feb. 27, Putin directed that Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces be placed on high alert, citing what he called hostile remarks by NATO leaders and Western economic sanctions against Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a senior diplomat, has also discussed the possibility of nuclear war, but he has stated that Moscow is doing all possible to avoid one.

“I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it,” he said last week, prompting the U.S. State Department to call his remarks “the height of irresponsibility”.

While there have been no indications that Russian nuclear forces are on high alert, analysts and Western officials have advised against dismissing Putin’s words as hyperbole given the likelihood that he may deploy nuclear weapons if he feels trapped in Ukraine or if NATO enters the fight.

US officials slammed Putin’s remarks about placing Russian nuclear forces on high alert as hazardous, escalatory, and completely unacceptable, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg branded them provocative and reckless.

However, US authorities quickly stated that they had seen no indications that Russian troops had modified their nuclear posture, and the US military stated that it saw no need to modify its own.

The Biden administration has been wary of escalation, which is why the president stated early on that he would not commit US soldiers to fight in Ukraine. The idea underpinning this approach is that escalating hazards will be reduced as long as Americans do not pull triggers and intentionally kill Russians. President Joe Biden and his team definitely hope so, and military experts like Lawrence Freedman agree.

On February 28, US President Joe Biden told Americans not to be concerned about a nuclear war with Russia. In response to a shouted question about whether Americans should be afraid about a nuclear war breaking out, Biden responded, “No.”

Biden’s remark appeared to reflect a general belief among US analysts and Western officials that Russia’s use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war is exceedingly unlikely.

Furthermore, the lack of US forces in Ukraine may make escalation more appealing to Russian officials. If Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle were thinking of deploying one or two tactical nuclear bombs on sites in Ukraine, the knowledge that no US soldiers would be killed in the strike may be a deterrent.

According to academics and Western officials, Russia’s oblique warnings of a nuclear strike appear to be intended to prevent Washington and its NATO allies from directly intervening in the battle.

While Western nations have been pouring weapons into Ukraine since the invasion, Biden stated last year that placing US soldiers on the ground in Ukraine was “not on the agenda.”

The US and its allies have no inclination to engage in a conventional shooting war with Russia, let alone something that may lead to a nuclear exchange.

Experts see a variety of scenarios in which Russia may deploy nuclear weapons, ranging from a blast over the Black Sea or in an uninhabited section of Ukraine to an attack against a Ukrainian military site or on a city. However, unleashing a nuclear bomb in Ukraine might harm Russian forces and result in radioactive fallout for Russia.

According to some experts, Washington may choose a conventional military reaction rather than a proportional nuclear counter-strike, which could affect US allies or lead to further nuclear escalation endangering Europe or the US homeland.

In the future, NATO may attempt to alter its US-built ballistic missile shield in Poland and Romania in order to fire down Russian rockets. NATO has long said that the present design is intended to counter missiles from Iran, Syria, and other Middle Eastern rogue states.

It is unknown if a Russian strike would increase the likelihood of other nuclear powers, such as India and Pakistan, using such weapons. Experts believe that if it results in worldwide condemnation, it will lower the likelihood of others deploying nuclear weapons.



  • Research Team

    The Research Team is the dedicated collective behind the insightful contributions on the Washington Institute For Defense & Security. With a profound understanding of global dynamics and a commitment to rigorous analysis, the Research Team delivers authoritative perspectives, enriching the discourse on critical international matters.

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