All CISAC News Commentary October 18, 2022

Would Putin Roll the Nuclear Dice?

"The hope is that rationality would prevail, and that senior political and military leaders in Moscow, who may not be so obsessed with Ukraine, would come down on the side of caution."
Vlad
Photo Credit: accessed via Wikimedia Commons

Since Russia launched its most recent invasion of Ukraine in February, Moscow has threatened—sometimes subtly, other times explicitly—nuclear escalation should the war not go its way. Ukraine and the West have to take such threats seriously. But the Kremlin also needs to take their probable responses seriously and would have to weigh the substantial risks and costs of using a nuclear weapon.

Shortly after Russian forces assaulted Ukraine on Feb. 24, Vladimir Putin ordered a “special combat readiness” status for Russian nuclear forces. But it’s unclear what that means since the Pentagon has consistently said it sees no change in Russia’s nuclear posture. The alert may have amounted to little more than additional command post staffing.

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