Could Russia Ukraine War Go Nuclear


Moscow’s threatening speech probably stems from a bluff intended to dissuade Westerners from getting too involved alongside the Ukrainians. But the hypothesis of a strike with a less powerful tactical weapon is not excluded and would have serious consequences the specter of the nuclear threat continues to hover over the world, after three months of Russian offensive in Ukraine. Less because of the risk of an accident in a Ukrainian power plant than because of Russia’s real or supposed intentions with regard to nuclear weapons. Moscow is blowing hot and cold on this subject, presenting nuclear war both as a risk to be avoided and as a very real threat if the West goes too far in supporting Kyiv. Beyond propaganda and bluffing, France info explains to you what the real risk of a Russian nuclear strike is, what the stakes are and what its consequences would be.

What does Russia say about nuclear weapons?

Moscow did not wait to invade Ukraine to put forward its arsenal. “The powers of NATO and Russia are not comparable, but Russia has nuclear weapons,” Vladimir Putin recalled on February 7, after his meeting with Emmanuel Macron in the Kremlin. The subject really came back on the table on February 27, three days after the start of the invasion, when the Russian president called for the Russian deterrent forces to be “on alert”. The nuclear arsenal is one of them. A few weeks later, the Russian military first used the Kinjal hypersonic missile, then tested the Samrat intercontinental missile,

Since then, the tone of Russian speech has often been ambiguous. “The danger [of a nuclear war] is real”, declared the head of diplomacy Sergey Lavrov on April 25, mixing warning and assurance that Russia wants to avoid this scenario. This is again the idea developed by former President Dmitry Medvedev on Telegram on May 12, saying that Western aid to Ukraine “increases the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia. “, that such a conflict “always risks turning into a nuclear war” and that it would be “a catastrophic scenario for everyone”.

Is there any reason to believe she could use it?

Moscow’s reminders about its nuclear arsenal do not unduly worry. The hypothesis of the use of a strategic nuclear weapon is nil or almost”, she explains to France info, because “Russia would expose itself to its own destruction” in the nuclear war which would then risk breaking out. Even if the invasion of Ukraine showed that Vladimir Putin could surprise, the researcher does not believe that he has lost all lucidity, nor that he can decide on such a serious act alone:  ​​We know that the protocol involves discussions with the head of, Like the other nuclear powers, Russia has a nuclear doctrine, a text which explains the cases in which it can use its arsenal. We can a priori rely on it, because one of the main principles of nuclear deterrence is to clearly lay down these red lines, to reduce the risk of a misunderstanding that would trigger a conflict. The latest version of the Russian doctrine, which dates from 2020, provides for the use of nuclear weapons only if Russia is targeted by an attack of the same type, by an attack on a nuclear site, by a ballistic missile or in case “of a threat to the very existence of the Russian Federation”. If this last formula is vague (ambiguity is also part of deterrence), it does not seem to correspond to a possible defeat in Ukraine.

What is the use of brandishing this threat?

Historically, the objective of nuclear deterrence is to prevent an attack on its own territory, by the threat of a devastating response. But in Ukraine, it is Russia that is on the attack and is playing on this threat to dissuade the rest of the world from coming to Kyiv’s aid.

What is Russia’s nuclear arsenal?

Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It has more than 500 strategic weapons, capable of carrying a total of more than 2,500 nuclear warheads, according to the count of the American journal Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which refers. A number regulated by the New Start treaty with the United States, renewed in February 2021. This same review estimates the number of tactical nuclear weapons at more than 1,900, more difficult to assess because limited by no text.

Who would be the most credible targets?

Observers imagine Russia using a tactical weapon more than a strategic weapon. Technically, the range of these weapons would still make it possible to reach cities like Berlin, but it “would make no sense”, the tactical strikes having the objective of helping the army to prevail over the battlefield.

What would be the damage and consequences of such a strike?

Simulators like Nuke Map * and Outrider, considered serious by the specialists, make it possible to visualize the effects. In a big city, the most powerful strategic weapons would cause millions of deaths, and a tactical weapon would kill hundreds of thousands of people. “A strategic bomb would destroy the whole of Paris, while the damage from a tactical bomb would be on the scale of a district”, sums up Insert radiobiologist Nicolas Foray.

Do we know how Westerners would react?

It would all depend on the target. Since Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the Alliance would have “no formal reason to react” to a strike targeting a Ukrainian target. On the other hand, if the bomb hit a NATO country. Each of its members would then be required to react.

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