The Brief – Wiping out Warsaw – EURACTIV.com
For the first time since the 1960s, Russia’s dirty war in Ukraine has opened Pandora’s box of escalation that could lead to nuclear war.
The main problem for Russia is that war is not being prepared and conventional warfare seems useless. That is why on Russian television presenters (or rather official propagandists) and their guests (military experts) threaten the West with nuclear annihilation.
One of them said that the West is afraid of a nuclear war, and therefore Russia should show that it is ready for it, “that we like it, that we like doing it”. Another spoke of annihilating Warsaw, the capital of Poland, “in half a second”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reacted on March 22 by declaring that “Russia must stop its nuclear saber slashes”, calling them “dangerous” and “irresponsible”.
“Russia must understand that a nuclear war should never be fought and that it can never win a nuclear war,” the NATO chief said, adding that this was in fact something Russia agreed in the past.
But obviously, something is changing.
For Russia, the nuclear threshold is linked to the question of whether its fundamental interests are threatened. Putin said that a world without Russia should not exist.
In this sense, Russia could use as a pretext for the use of nuclear weapons not only the presence of foreign troops in Ukraine (whether it is a “no-fly zone” operation or helmets blues on the ground), but also statements perceived as totally hostile, such as sanctions aimed at “destroying Russia”.
The Russian Federation is fragile, much like the USSR was, and will become even more so as the sanctions bite. A perceived Western objective to destroy the Russian Federation could indeed be a casus bellijustifying (in Kremlin logic) the use of weapons of doom.
In this sense, the Western message should not be unnecessarily offensive. The Western response, which indeed includes unprecedented sanctions, is aimed at stopping the war, not destroying Russia.
Sanctions are not an act of war.
In a scenario where Russia loses the war it started, the Kremlin will seek a provocation to justify the use of unconventional weapons, which would make it look strong and capable of dictating a post-war settlement. .
Simulations of steps leading to nuclear war have been conducted at select universities such as Stanford and are supposed to be used to train new US presidents. Paperback writers also use it in their war novels.
With the war in Ukraine, the world has reached a threshold where the escalation to global destruction takes only a few steps over a few days or less.
According to German intelligence, Russia may use chemical weapons in Ukraine. Chancellor Olaf Scholz reportedly warned Putin in direct talks not to use biological or chemical weapons, telling him such a move would be “unacceptable and unforgivable”.
If Russia uses chemical weapons, will the West remain inactive? Suppose there will be an asymmetric military response – perhaps on a Russian ship in one of the oceans.
Russia would then retaliate, perhaps by wiping out a symbolic location with nuclear weapons. Warsaw does indeed qualify, as does Riga, Tallinn or Vilnius.
The United States would then have to decide whether to agree to launch a nuclear attack on Russia, knowing that Russia would retaliate and kill tens of millions of Americans.
We guess that would be a tough decision. If the United States does not fire its ballistic missiles in retaliation at Warsaw, Putin will have destroyed NATO and claimed victory.
Unlike EU countries, Washington had very reliable intelligence on Russian preparations to invade Ukraine. It will be very interesting to know what Biden says to European leaders behind closed doors.
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Pay attention to…
- Second day of the European Council.
- Fourth plenary session of the Council for the Future of Europe.
The views are those of the author.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]