Will Putin Employ Nuclear Weapons to Support Russia's Invasion of Ukraine?
Headline Roundup March 16th, 2022
The stout Ukrainian resistance to Russia's invasion inspires people around the world, but also leads to questions about additional measures Russian President Vladimir Putin may take — including the use of nuclear weapons.
Reports across the spectrum suggest that Putin's invasion hasn't gone as planned and has stalled in some areas, which prompts speculation about whether Russia will escalate the conflict further. As the invasion began, Putin threatened "consequences greater than any you have faced" to countries that tried to interfere, and placed Russia's nuclear forces on high alert just days later. Russia's most recent military doctrine authorizes the use of nuclear weapons in response to any assault on Russia or its allies "in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation."
Voices across the spectrum expressed concern about Putin's mental state and uncertainty about his thought process with the invasion and how to proceed. Many framed the potential for Putin to use nuclear weapons as unlikely but not impossible, and therefore worrisome. One writer for National Review (Right bias) called special attention to Russia's relatively low bar for authorizing the use of nuclear weapons, and used that to argue that the U.S. should focus on deterring the nuclear threat with methods beyond sanctions, such as cyberattacks and covert action. One writer for The Atlantic drew parallels between Putin's threats and former President Donald Trump's "fire and fury" threats against North Korea in 2017, and framed concentrated executive authority over nuclear weapons as problematic.
Despite the prevalence of opinions that Vladimir Putin has lost his mind, nuclear weapons experts continue to see the Russian president as a rational man who isn't willing yet to risk the severe consequences of using a nuclear weapon on Ukraine.
Putin is growing increasingly isolated as the assault on Ukraine nears its third week, and the Russian leader's decision to put his nuclear forces on high alert has raised fears about how far he might go. But 10 nuclear weapons experts Newsweek spoke to consider it unlikely that he would hit the nuclear...
He threatened any country that interfered in his invasion of Ukraine with “consequences greater than any you have faced in history.” He placed his nuclear forces on high alert and held exercises with them. And then he proclaimed that Western sanctions amounted to a “declaration of war” against Russia.
The fate of humanity suddenly seems to be in the unsteady hands of an isolated, frustrated, and potentially unhinged Vladimir Putin. And people are understandably panicked about that prospect. “The fact that there’s a very short path from, say, Putin feeling humiliated to the end of life as we know it,” the sociologist Kieran Healy wrote, “is...
On the menu today: Just when you thought this newsletter couldn’t get any more grim, it’s time to take a long, cold, hard look at just what could lead to Vladimir Putin using a tactical nuclear weapon, the devastating effects of such a weapon, and how the U.S. can deter that horrific scenario. The unthinkable isn’t quite so unthinkable anymore.
What You Need to Know about Tactical Nuclear Weapons
On Monday, United Nations secretary general António Guterres warned that, “Raising the alert level of Russian nuclear forces is a bone-chilling...