Ever since Ukraine has stood firm to be a formidable force that could go equal with Russia, Vladimir Putin has raised the stakes of the war by annexing Ukrainian land, ordering a partial military mobilisation and threatening nuclear retaliation.
In a televised address, he said Russia would use all tools at its disposal to defend its “territorial integrity”.
“This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them,” he said.
Jessica Genauer, international relations lecturer at Flinders University, said the chance of nuclear weapons being used has “increased significantly in recent weeks” as more Russians voice their objections to how the war is being fought.
“[Putin] is now facing a precarious domestic situation, with no expectation of upcoming military successes for Russia on the battlefield,” Dr Genauer said.
When we take this into account, combined with the recent successful strike on the Crimea bridge, I do believe that unfortunately the chances of Putin using a nuclear weapon have increased.
Putin understands that he must do something to show evidence of the Russian power that he has been promising to his people, and has been so drastically underdelivered in this war.” Putin has to double down and save his face, thus the option of going nuclear.
What Will NATO MEMBERS do?
Last week, former CIA director and retired army general David Petraeus said the US and its allies would destroy Russia’s troops and equipment in Ukraine and sink its Black Sea fleet if Mr Putin used nuclear weapons in the conflict.
“To give you a hypothetical, we would respond by leading a NATO — a collective effort — that would take out every Russian conventional force that we could see and identify in the Ukraine and also in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea,” Mr Petraeus told ABC News US.
“It’s not nuclear for nuclear — you don’t want to get into a nuclear escalation here, but you have to show that this can’t be accepted in any way.”
The idea that Russia could use a nuclear weapon against a non-nuclear country — given that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees from the US, Britain, France and Russia — would set a “horrible precedent”.
There are some signals that the Americans have threatened Russia that if they use a nuclear weapon, the US would enter the conflict directly and attack Russian forces in Ukraine and I think that that’s the most likely scenario.
I don’t think that you’d see NATO getting involved because it’s not an attack on NATO. I think the most likely thing would be that Britain, France and the US would enter the conflict in Ukraine and only with air power.