Could Russia really use nuclear weapons against Ukraine?

Sushree Behera

The war between Russia and Ukraine appears to be an ever-ending affair. What Russia expected to be a swift and brief annexation has stretched for more than 6 months now. The question pressuring the world is: could Russia really use nuclear weapons in Ukraine? The threat, unfortunately, is real.

The Ukrainian resistance, which is aided by the west, has instilled the possibility of an unexpected defeat in the minds of the leaders in the Kremlin. As a way to retaliate, Putin warned the West that he would use a nuclear weapon to defend Russia if necessary. 

While most experts and analysts see this warning as a bluff to stop the West from aiding Ukraine, the governments of the West are serious about Putin’s warning. They know the very nature of Putin.

The strengths of Russia are no longer hidden from the world. They can stand against the world if it seems necessary for their people. But what is going in the mind of the Russian leader can only be analyzed by their steps and actions. Let’s understand the intentions and conditions related to this question. 

How is the idea of nuclear deterrence restricting Russia

Nuclear Weapons have been only used twice in the history of mankind. The USA dropped both the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. More than 200,000 people died due to the bombings, and two cities were completely ruined. This shows the severity of using nuclear weapons. The destruction will always inspire the world, so why not jump into a nuclear war.

The possibility of any country using it is very low due to the nuclear deterrence theory. The theory states that a country will avoid using nuclear weapons since the other country is equally capable of retaliating using nuclear weapons, which will lead to mutual destruction.

Russia and the US hold 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal, so if both countries engage in a direct conflict, there can be drastic consequences. If Putin uses strategic nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the USA will have no other option than to enter into a conflict with Russia. 

Retired General David Petraeus said that the USA would destroy the troops and equipment of Russia if Russia used nuclear weapons in Ukraine. While the USA may have this type of conventional attack at the beginning, if the situation doesn’t resolve, full-fledged nuclear war will be a possibility.

This full-fledged nuclear war will be very abysmal for both countries. And the leaders in the Kremlin know this too, which is why the use of strategic nuclear weapons is very unlikely.

Why could Russia use nuclear weapons

Strategic nuclear weapons are not the only thing the West is worried about. Russia can use low-damage tactical nuclear armaments if the situation becomes more desperate.

“Tactical” nuclear weapons are less powerful than the big nuclear weapons that can destroy cities, and are used only to inflict limited damage. 

In a recent speech, Ukraine’s President Zelensky said that Russian office officials must “prepare their society” for a possible nuclear war. This highlights the gravity of the situation. If pushed to their limits, it won’t be a surprise if Russia uses tactical nuclear weapon to win the war against Ukraine.

What if Russia uses tactical nuclear weapons?

US President Biden believes that Putin is not bluffing about Russia’s use of nuclear weapons. In an interview on CNN, Biden said that the US has discussed every possible scenario if Russia uses tactical nuclear weapons. 

While diplomatic meetings are a way to advance, the US will most likely respond with military force. The Russian troops in Ukraine will have to face a hard time fighting the Ukrainian, American, and NATO troops. If the US senses a protracted conflict, they might use tactical nuclear weapons in return. 

However, the use of strategic nuclear weapon is still out of the question. Countries in this globalized world know the importance of maintaining their territorial integrity and economic stability, so they prefer to sign a peace agreement instead of a full-fledged nuclear war.

Even the smallest chance of using a tactical nuclear weapon can lead to World War III. This is because the countries involved or discussing this issue are all world powers. They will think multiple times before taking such a step, as they are also conscious about their future. 

The use of nuclear weapons is a world’s problem

The use of nuclear weapons is not an issue constricted between Russia and the US. It is a world problem. These two countries decide the future possibilities of World War III. Although the possibility is very low, the discussion about its possibility is increasing day by day. The US is organizing countless discussions over Russia’s mindset regarding nuclear weapon use. 

One question also evokes in the mind of many people that if there is a very low chance of the use of nuclear weapons, then why is the world discussing it? The answer to this question again points out the uncertainty of this occurrence. Apart from all this, no one wants to repeat the history of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Read also: Erdogan and Putin meet in Astana: peace with Ukraine and negotiation over gas discussed

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