Nuclear weapons would only likely be used after mobilization, sabotage and other measures have failed to turn the tide, and it’s unclear what Putin would achieve by using them, [Stefan] Gady [a senior fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London] said.
Despite some wild predictions on Russian news shows that the Kremlin would lash out at a Western capital, with London appearing to be a favored target, it is more likely that Moscow would seek to use one of its smaller, tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield to try to gain advantage over Ukrainian forces, said Gady.
The smallest nuclear weapon in the Russian arsenal delivers an explosion of around 1 kiloton, one fifteenth of the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which would inflict massive destruction but on a more limited area.
Because the war is being fought along a vast, 1,500-mile front line, troops are too thinly spread out for there to be an obvious target whose obliteration would change the course of the war. To make a difference, Russia would have to use several nuclear weapons or alternatively strike a major population center such as Kyiv, either of which would represent a massive escalation, trigger almost certain Western retaliation and turn Russia into a pariah state even with its allies, Gady said.
“From a purely military perspective, nuclear weapons would not solve any of Vladimir Putin’s military problems,” he said. “To change the operational picture one single attack would not be enough and it would also not intimidate Ukraine into surrendering territory. It would cause the opposite, it would double down Western support and I do think there would be a U.S. response.”
That’s why many believe Putin won’t carry out his threats. “Even though Putin is dangerous, he is not suicidal, and those around him aren’t suicidal,” said Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army Europe. [Continue reading…]