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Time To Take Putin's Nuclear Threats Seriously!

By Colonel ANIL A ATHALE (retd)
September 29, 2022 16:24 IST
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The most likely scenario is that in order to stop Ukraine from retaking any Russian occupied territory, Russia may well use a small (1 to 2 kilo tonne) tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, warns military historian Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

IMAGE: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via video link at the Kremlin, September 23, 2022. Photograph: Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool/Reuters
 

The world is sleepwalking towards a nuclear war and the scariest part is that most of us seem to refuse to even acknowledge it.

As someone who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 and has studied the nuclear dimension of warfare for last 30 years, one is aghast at the lack of urgency and awareness of the dangers the world faces at this moment in human history.

This is in direct contrast to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the decision makers as well as the rest of humanity were well aware of the dangers of a possible nuclear Armageddon.

The current media coverage is biased as well as ill informed as it ignores the history of Ukraine, Russia and Crimea.

What is worse, even the basic 'logic' of nuclear war is also being ignored.

Russia is being pushed into a corner where it will have only two options -- a military defeat or to use tactical nuclear weapons against Kyiv, with a promise of more to come unless Ukraine surrenders!

The key question is, will the West that is backing Ukraine at the moment, be ready to use its own nuclear weapons to 'defend' Ukraine.

Here we enter the theatre of the absurd as there is no defence against nuclear weapons, only retaliation.

Is the West ready for a nuclear exchange with Russia -- a world war with nuclear weapons, nuclear winter and grave threat to the existence of life on earth!

The current Ukraine crisis is a mirror image of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The roles of the United States and Russia are however reversed.

The Cuban crisis started when the then Soviet Union clandestinely installed missiles in Cuba posing a direct threat to the US mainland and also intruding into the American zone of influence.

In the current epoch it is the US that has planned to expand NATO and place American nukes at Russia's doorstep.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is indeed a tactical move to undo/prevent the damage, but it was the West that engendered the crisis by intruding into Russia's legitimate zone of influence/security.

In 1962, when President John F Kennedy imposed a naval blockade around Cuba and pressured the then USSR, its then leader Nikita Khrushchev, in a great act of statesmanship, withdrew the Soviet missiles from Cuba and saved the world fromnuclear war.

IMAGE: Ukrainian soldiers in the village of Dolyna, September 23, 2022. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Is the US and West ready to admit that it was they who provoked Russia first by encouraging Ukraine to join NATO?

The only way out of this crisis is if the West stops its pseudo moralising and accommodate Russia's legitimate security interests.

But instead of restraining Ukraine, the West has given it weapons to defeat Russian ground forces.

It is a classic case of pouring oil over troubled waters in the hope of 'defeating' Russia by proxy.

The West and its media blitz seem to ignore one basic fact -- in the realm of nuclear weapons Russia is equal that of the US.

The most likely scenario is that in order to stop Ukraine from retaking any Russian occupied territory in the east and pose any potential threat to Crimea, Russia may well use a small (1 to 2 kilo tonne) tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

It may well be used against a purely military target or even an unhabituated area.

This will be akin to the 'shot across the bow' or a warning shot to Ukraine to accept a cease fire on Russian terms.

IMAGE: In an aerial view, unidentified makeshift graves are seen at the Pishanske cemetery in Izium.
A total of 447 bodies was exhumed from the gravesite, including 22 soldiers and 5 children, and the bodies will be examined by forensic officials for possible war crimes.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have reclaimed villages east and south of Kharkiv, as Russian forces have withdrawn from areas they occupied since early in the war. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Despite its current absurd logic of raising the specter of a Russian nuclear attack on London (why London?) by the US/British media, the most likely Russian action of use of small tactical nuclear weapon will pose a difficult dilemma to the West as well as Ukraine.

The West will have to decide if it is prepared to risk nuclear attacks on Europe or even the mainland US to 'defend' Ukraine's military gains in Donbas or its dubious claim on Crimea.

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy will have to decide if he wants to risk the existence of Kyiv.

For after the use of even a single nuke Russia would have shown its 'resolve' and intent.

Even as resolute a country like Japan surrendered within hours of a nuclear weapon strike by the US.

We ignore World War II history and the lessons of 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis at our own peril.

It is time India that has goodwill in both Russia as well as Ukraine steps up and stops the world from getting ushered into a 'new' era of battlefields where nuclear weapons get freely used.

Once the taboo in the use of nuclear weapons is broken, the resultant anarchy or in the worst case, a major nuclear exchange between US and Russia, becomes a scary possibility.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) is a military historian and author of the 1997 publication Nuclear Menace: The Satyagraha Approach.
His earlier columns can be read here.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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