Institute for Study of War unveils likely scenarios of Putin's nuclear maneuver

    WORLD  21 June 2024 - 13:06

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has implicitly threatened to use nuclear weapons if the West enables Ukraine to decisively defeat Russia to undermine the international community's cohering strategic vision of support for Ukraine. 

    Putin stated in a press conference on June 20 following his trip to North Korea and Vietnam that Russia is considering making changes to its nuclear doctrine, claiming that Russia is aware that an unnamed “potential adversary” is working on new elements “related to lowering the threshold nuclear weapon use", Caliber.Az reports citing the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). 

    Thus, Putin’s statement was likely partly in response to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s June 17 remarks that NATO members are discussing increased nuclear readiness in the face of growing threats from Russia and China, even though Stoltenberg did not discuss lowering the threshold for nuclear weapon use.

    The Russian nuclear doctrine calls for Russia to only use nuclear weapons in the event of “exceptional cases” of threats to Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and Putin notably defined Russia’s possible strategic defeat in Ukraine as the “end of [Russia’s] statehood” following his mention of lowering thresholds for nuclear weapon usage. 

    Putin added that a defeat on the battlefield would signify the end of the “thousand-year history” of the Russian state and that Russia is better off fighting until the end.

    Moreover, Putin’s rhetoric deliberately aims to present Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as an existential war for Russia’s sovereignty, and Putin likely invoked the possibility of lowering the threshold for nuclear weapon use to imply that he reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if his forces are decisively defeated on the frontlines in order to deter Ukraine’s allies from reaching a common strategic objective of decisively defeating Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — an outcome which is in the West’s interests.

    Putin’s nuclear threat is part of an ongoing Kremlin nuclear blackmail campaign aimed at dissuading Ukraine’s allies from decisively committing to defeating Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and is therefore highly unlikely to result in actual nuclear escalation.

    A Russian strategic defeat in Ukraine does not threaten Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (but it can threaten the stability of Putin's regime). The Kremlin did not engage in nuclear escalation following Russia’s devastating defeats around Kyiv, Kharkiv, or Kherson oblasts in 2022, and these defeats certainly did not threaten Russian sovereignty or territorial integrity. Putin’s own nuclear threats have been riddled with contradictions since 2022.

    ISW has also routinely assessed that the threat of a nuclear escalation will continue to be the core asset of Russia’s ability to manipulate the perceptions of foreign decision makers via its reflexive control campaign. ISW continues to assess that Russia cannot defeat Ukraine or the West — and will likely lose — if the West mobilizes its resources to resist the Kremlin.

    Caliber.Az

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