Following President Vladimir Putin’s declaration on September 21 that Russia would use “full force of forces,” i.e., nuclear weapons, if its “territorial integrity” was challenged, the West has begun to think about possible reaction options.
According to analysts, President Putin is unlikely to be the first to use nuclear weapons since the United States launched an atomic bomb on Japan in 1945. To learn more about what may happen if Russia utilised nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Military Cognizance spoke with a range of experts and officials.
What kind of an attack will it be?
According to analysts, Russia’s intention in employing tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine is to terrorise the nation into submission or into accepting dialogue, as well as to alienate Western nations that support Kiev.
Russia is unlikely to employ nuclear weapons on the front lines, according to military expert Mark Cancian of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.
Cancian claims that to advance 30 kilometres on the fronts, it may take up to 20 small nuclear bombs. In light of the huge risk that the deployment of nuclear weapons and its repercussions represent, this accomplishment seems insignificant. Moscow may instead detonate a nuclear weapon over ocean or over Ukraine to produce a potent electromagnetic pulse that can bring down electrical equipment while avoiding major casualties.
Instead of targeting a Ukrainian military post or an urban area like the capital Kyiv, Mr. Putin has a more damaging and lethal option that might result in widespread casualties and possibly the death of Ukraine’s political leadership.
These hypothetical situations “may be meant to split the NATO alliance and the global consensus against (Mr.) Putin,” according to Jon Wolfsthal, a former White House nuclear policy adviser.
However, the likelihood of such an action succeeding is low, and it may even come across as desperate rather than determined.
Should the West use nuclear weapons as a response?
The options are complicated, and West is still undecided on how to respond to a tactical nuclear attack. In the event of a nuclear danger, the US and NATO do not want to come across as being frightened. However, given that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the US and NATO also want to prevent the danger of the conflict in Ukraine growing into a worldwide nuclear war.
According to experts, the West will be forced to act, and not just the US but the entire NATO must act as one.
Wolfsthal stated that any response would need to “guarantee that Putin’s military condition does not improve after the nuclear assault, and that his political, economic, and personal position is impacted after that attack.”
The US has around 100 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in NATO nations and can counteract Russian troops proportionally.
This may make Moscow ready for nuclear retaliation by Russia, increasing the likelihood of nuclear war and devastation, according to Matthew Kroenig, a specialist at the Atlantic Council.
Another danger is that some NATO members might not agree with a nuclear retort, resulting in a division within the alliance.
granting Ukraine the ability to attack Russia?
Experts agree that if Russia were to conduct a nuclear strike, the best course of action would be to utilise more traditional military or diplomatic measures while arming Ukraine with more potent weaponry to engage Russian forces.
Some nations that are currently reticent will become more involved in stepping up sanctions against Russia if Russia utilises nuclear weapons.
Additionally, the US might arm Ukraine with NATO aircraft, air defence systems like the Patriot and THAAD, and even long-range ATACMS missiles that would allow Ukrainian forces to launch attacks far into Russia.
Cancian declared that “all current limitations on Ukrainian military will be eliminated.”