Russia's nuclear strike on Ukraine will end the influence and moral authority of world powers, launching an unprecedented global race to obtain their own weapons of mass destruction
Putin "cast lots", and there is no doubt that a tough continuation of the war has been chosen. Here's what else is important. While the attention of commentators in Ukraine is mainly focused on the fact of mobilization in Russia, there are nuances that deserve special attention and immediate reaction.
In the same address in which Putin announced the mobilization, he several times mentioned a "threat" to territorial integrity, a threat to the Russian people, and nuclear weapons in conjunction. In light of the accession referenda being launched, it reads transparently.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people . This is not a bluff ,” Putin said.
He also stated that the territorial integrity, independence and freedom of the Russian Federation will be ensured by all available means.
“And those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind rose can also turn in their direction, ” Putin threatened. The hint associated with the wind rose (stretching to the West) is very transparent regarding the strike specifically on Ukrainian territory.
Let's try to read the "(quasi)logic" of Russia. A few quick hypotheses. And perhaps hints of diplomacy.
The author does not claim that the Kremlin is 100% ready to implement the plan described below right now. Only that the logic of Russian actions in recent weeks can, with a high degree of probability, indicate the existence of such or a similar plan. And that it is already being implemented. This is nothing new for the heirs of the USSR, which was seriously developing various plans for the use of nuclear weapons .
BY THE EYES OF HAWKS
According to Clausewitz , military means and ends are always subordinate to political ends. If Putin's political goal is victory in Ukraine, how can he try to achieve it? In our country, it is generally accepted that Putin has abandoned this goal or is ready to abandon it, but his speech and, most importantly, the steps taken, unequivocally refute such a conclusion.
The author assumes that in the light of what is happening on the Ukrainian front, in Russia itself, along its perimeter (the beginning of the collapse of the CSTO, the merged SCO summit, etc.) and beyond, Putin and the hawks, in favor of whose position he obviously chose, will make everything to prevent defeat.
1. Will the declared annexation of Donbass, parts of Kherson and Zaporozhye regions be considered a “victory” for Putin? Yes, Russian public opinion, all the more frightened by mobilization, will gladly eat it.
The question arises: "How to keep the occupied areas and put the squeeze on Donbass in the spirit of "the man said - the man did it"?"
2. How to preserve the Russian authority, which is crumbling before our eyes, at least in the near abroad (so that the process of the collapse of influence does not spread further to Russian territories, as well as to the Russian government itself), and, preferably (for the owner of the Kremlin), in other regions of the world ?
The course of hostilities in Ukraine has shown that Russia has no effective purely forceful arguments left . Mobilization does not fundamentally change the situation, because Ukraine has a million people under arms plus continued supplies of Western weapons. But ... There are no effective arguments left, except for weapons of mass destruction , for example, the most prestigious - nuclear. Moreover, it is not nuclear weapons themselves that will force Russia to be reckoned with (the SCO summit has already shown this very clearly), but only their use . Again, we are trying to look at the situation through the eyes of Putin and Russian hawks .
WHERE AND WHY?
Again, the following is a hypothesis. Other possible options and different terms for the use of nuclear weapons by Russia should also be calculated .
In terms of timing , the author proceeds from the fact that mobilization in the Russian Federation will not give an immediate tangible effect, while the Ukrainian forces retain the potential for further advancement after the “referendums” announced by the Russian Federation. The promotion could significantly undermine the Kremlin's position, and he is trying to demonstrate that he will not allow this at any cost.
Consequently, the risk of using nuclear weapons by the Kremlin in the near future increases . This implies immediate and decisive opposition to Russia's nuclear plans by Ukraine and its allies .
Estimates in the Ukrainian media fluctuate in the range from "they also have sensible military leaders" to "they are all complete idiots." Moreover, both estimates can be heard from the same expert. Let's try to distance ourselves from both assessments.
The retreat of the Russian troops in the Kharkiv direction was so rapid that it was explained solely by the collapse of the front.
At the same time, Ukrainian preparations for the offensive were quite difficult to hide. But, even against their background, and even against the background of the offensive itself, Russia continued, almost defiantly, to transfer combat-ready units to other directions.
The degree of disorganization of the Russian troops was demonstrated unprecedented. Something similar, plus or minus, happened only at the stage of the invasion, which could be explained by slippage at the start and unexpectedly strong resistance from the Ukrainians. But after half a year of the war, in the units that took part in it, such chaos is more difficult to explain.
The author does not exclude the possibility of the collapse of the front only under the pressure of the Ukrainian troops.
But it cannot be ruled out that what is happening was prepared and carried out by someone . Perhaps, behind Putin's back, but, it is possible, with his knowledge.
so. In any case, at the end of the Ukrainian operation in the Kharkiv region, a fundamentally new situation arose .
1. The Kremlin has a reason to announce a deliberately unpopular mobilization (whatever you call it, it's a mobilization). As, perhaps, an auxiliary means for protecting Russian territories from counterattacks from Ukraine or for attempts to expand the zones of occupation.
2. The Kremlin has an argument for the formation of an internal Russian consensus around the immediate announcement of referendums (since there was allegedly a risk both for the annexed territories and, directly, for the Russian territories - that is, pressure from outside with the collapse of the Federation itself).
3. The Russian authorities have an argument in favor of the possible use of nuclear weapons to "protect the country from the advancing NATO and attempts to collapse."
4. A new situation has arisen, when Kharkiv is no longer in the rear of the Ukrainian troops. Those. on the front of a very significant length in the rear of the Armed Forces of Ukraine there are practically no large cities. And even those settlements that exist, basically, are almost destroyed and depopulated.
The foregoing speaks of signs of a situation containing a high risk of the enemy using low-yield tactical nuclear weapons. Perhaps not a single one, but multiple, in a significant strip parallel to the current front line. And, perhaps (but not necessarily), not directly against the Ukrainian troops and not for the purpose of actually destroying them everywhere, but for the purpose of infecting the area and completely cutting off (a significant part of the combat-ready) Ukrainian troops from supplies. The second is more likely, since in this case the notorious “wind rose” will not cover the territories occupied by Russia and the Russian troops (by that time they will all nominally become “Russian”) with infection.
A nuclear strike in this zone would allow Putin (as the Kremlin may see) :
1. Demonstrate your determination and strength. To play along with those circles within the country who dream of its greatness and dance around the atomic bomb. Survival is now the main leitmotif of the actions of the Russian authorities. They will not stand up for the price, which is already obvious.
2. Intimidate countries that doubt the strength of Russia. In the post-Soviet space, in Europe, etc.
3. Try to produce a shocking effect on the Ukrainian population and the Armed Forces. To achieve the end of the war on Russia's terms in a short time. Or significantly localize it.
4. Consolidate the territorial result obtained so far and even try to improve it (especially in the “promised” Donbas) by advancing on Ukrainian troops cut off from supplies and seeking their surrender.
5. Secure the Russian army from a counteroffensive (because it is extremely difficult, almost impossible, to lead through the contaminated zone).
6. Dramatically minimize losses among Russian troops as a result of Ukrainian counter-offensives (i.e., minimize political risks within Russia arising from the deployment of an even larger scale war and losses).
WHAT TO DO?
These are brief recommendations. I think that experts in relevant state structures and in the expert community will find more solutions.
1. To seek an immediate joint statement by the United States and China (or all countries guarantors of compliance with the Budapest Memorandum) on the complete and categorical inadmissibility of the use of WMD by Russia in Ukraine on any scale, as undermining the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the world order as a whole. Because the non-observance of territorial integrity demonstrated by Russia in Ukraine is a precedent, which are usual in the world. And inflicting a nuclear strike on a country that has renounced nuclear weapons under the guarantees of the leading world powers will totally blow up the nonproliferation regime - in general and forever, which will also be discussed below.
2. To seek from Western partners a clear statement about what exactly will be done (what, at a minimum, the main (!) Measures will be taken) in the event that Russia uses nuclear weapons on any scale (because, I repeat, not only for Ukraine, but also precedent is important for the world order, not games around someone's fickle and short-sighted voters). In this case, we cannot simply talk about additional economic or technological sanctions. Nuclear aggression must receive an immediate rebuff . Therefore, we can only talk about the direct military intervention of NATO in the form of the immediate establishment of a no-fly zone over the entire internationally recognized territory of Ukraine.The fastest possible closure of the territory of Ukraine by means of missile defense and air defense of the West, which is friendly to Ukraine. As well as the immediate deployment of a peacekeeping contingent of NATO countries to the entire territory of Ukraine not occupied by Russia. last but not least, everything else.
This is about the West.
But the Budapest Memorandum is important in this regard, because China is among the guarantors. And if Russia has already demonstrated its willingness to give a damn about the position of any other signatories (at least so far, up to the declared really tough position, and not vague threats or insufficient sanctions) , the situation with China is different. Russia cannot afford to play simultaneously against all the leading centers of power at once.
China, which is now claiming the role of a superpower, in turn, cannot but be aware (and constantly declares this) of its responsibility for the world order. China's conflict with the US and allies is a conflict with the US and allies. But there are things that destroy the world order and turn the world into dangerous chaos as a whole .
The inevitable, in the event of a Russian nuclear strike, the rapid spread of WMD nullifies the strategic advantages of China itself.
Russian threats and actions are turning the world into a place where a real, never-before-seen hunt for weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery will begin . Many countries will try to covertly and in advance deliver such weapons to the territory of each potential enemy.
Dozens of countries will do this, and nothing can hold them back. Because there will be no other guarantees in such a world. And no government can any longer be sure of the security of its own country if it does not have the means to adequately respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction by others.
There will be no more talk about any humanity of a single destiny and any other more or less global project. Against the background of the already progressing economic deglobalization (and the United States and China have benefited the most from globalization), there will be an explosive growth (global universal crisis) of mutual mistrust.
The situation will be catastrophically aggravated by the fact that all countries - world leaders, which allowed a nuclear strike on a country disarmed under their guarantees, will also completely lose any moral authority. And no declarative lamentations and dancing with a tambourine will ever compensate for this in the eyes of hundreds of member countries of the world community.