Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Tactical Nuke

I am in no position to evaluate whether this is a correct analysis.  I am just putting this out there as a grim possibility. A Hard Look at the Risk of a Putin-Ordered Tactical Nuke. Short version: still unlikely, but no longer impossible. 

As hyperbolic as that claim may seem, the circumstances that would spur the Russians to use a tactical nuclear weapon are starting to fall into place. As laid out yesterday, the war is going badly for the Russians. Advances are moving slowly, when they’re moving at all, and casualties are mounting. The Russian economy is collapsing. Something’s going to break; it’s just a question of what breaks first.

This newsletter has repeatedly discussed the official Russian military doctrine, “escalate to deescalate” — that is, “If Russia were subjected to a major non-nuclear assault that exceeded its capacity for conventional defense, it would ‘de-escalate’ the conflict by launching a limited — or tactical — nuclear strike.” In other words, Russia’s official strategy when losing a war is to escalate it by using tactical battlefield nukes in order to “deescalate” it on favorable terms.


Grim said...

The Russians have already deployed nuclear capable artillery. That’s 203mm, for those following at home.

David Foster said...

Couldn't most potential targets that could be destroyed with a tactical nuclear also be destroyed, albeit not so thoroughly, via a heavy air, artillery, and/or conventional missile attack?

Christopher B said...

@David, yes but it takes a lot more time and ammunition, both of which could be something the Russians decide they don't have.

Also, I don't think we should assume that Putin would limit the use to a tactical or operational objective. If he's pushed into a corner, say by the US announcing a 'coalition of the willing' no-fly zone, I think there's a chance that he might pop a small one as an intimidation factor. As Geraghty notes, that would be an 'escalate to deescalate' usage. Biden has already blinked once on the Polish MiG transfer. The junta's policies are just absolutely incoherent as they're using Russia as an intermediary to revive Obama's vile JCPOA agreement with Iran and just agreed that *transactions between Russia and Iran with respect to JCPOA* aren't subject to the Ukrainian invasion sanctions. Whatever signals they intend to be sending, I dunno how Putin and his crew are supposed to decipher them.

"This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it."

Aggie said...

So, it used to be impossible?

Cranberry said...

The articles linked above referred to this Twitter thread:

It's more legible at the Twitterer's website, with following translated letters (allegedly from an FSB source. Who knows?)

If true, it's terrifying, because the predicted Western responses to such an ultimatum in the letter are not accurate--but they do align with the inexplicable decision to invade Ukraine.

David Foster said...

The Biden administrations policies on Iran can only be understood as malevolent and deliberately harmful to both the US and to Israel...not to mention most of the countries in the middle east, other than Iran...UNLESS there is a serious case to be made that the payoff and new agreement would really eliminate or greatly reduce the chances of Iran getting nuclear weapons.

Has anyone seen such a case presented?

David Foster said...

Related post at Tablet...if true. then Biden (in 2016) "strong-armed the Ukrainian president to vote for Security Council Resolution 2334, finding that Israel was in occupation of Palestinian land—which according to the resolution included historical Jewish holy sites. The Ukrainians asked to abstain, but Biden said no. Kyiv then asked for a delay. There was a large and influential Jewish community in Ukraine with family ties to Israel. And after all, what would the optics be of turning against Jerusalem just days after the Israelis had stood with Ukraine? That was not good enough for Biden. So the Ukrainians joined the other powers the Obama team had corralled into voting against Israel."

There is a quite substantial anti-Isral bloc in the Democratic Party...more than a few of them are outright anti-Semitic. We have seen on other issues how far Biden is willing to go to gain the approval of the extreme 'progressives', not unlikely that he is doing so on this matter as well.

Anonymous said...

Its not complicated. The Russian Special Operation is designed to make Ukraine, a CIA controlled country since 2014, unable to attack Russia. They are destroying the Ukrainian military to that end. As that military has maybe 4 million human shields in place, and as Russia does not want to kill civilians, its gonna take a while.

The Operation is going as expected and will be carried out till its done.

The only way tactical nukes will enter the war is if NATO or the US does something stupid.

dmoelling said...

A little more backbone is required in the West. The Russians play the same records over and over. We now discover the FSB (or whatever the KGB is called today) funded lots of environmental groups in the west to discourage oil and gas production. They did the same thing in the 1980s with anti-nuke weapons people like the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK (CND). The CND got tens of thousands of protestors out against Reagan's decision to move Pershing Intermediate Range nuclear missiles into West Germany. This was in response to Soviet short range missile deployments. The Russian's blinked and the arms control treaty was signed shortly afterwards. They pushed and pushed recently violating that treaty and it lapsed.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Aggie - a fair point. It was never really impossible, but we have treated it so for a long time.

@ PenGun - things are indeed uncomplicated when you make convenient assumptions such as Ukraine being a CIA-controlled country. Such things make the world so understandable and everyone else seem stupid in comparison to you. We all see the attraction in that.

@ David Foster and Cranberry - thanks for the links

David Foster said...

A couple of days ago, Marc Andreessen tweeted:


Anonymous said...

"Ukraine being a CIA-controlled country."

In 2014 Victoria Nuland boasted about separating Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence. She also said the CIA spent 5 billion dollars arranging this coup. The CIA would never let such a valuable asset slip through their fingers unless they were cut off.

The CIA leveraged the rather serious Nazi streak in Ukraine to do this, and has controlled them ever since.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

We have different meanings for the word "control." Everyone influences everyone, all a matter of degree.

It's more fun to say "control," though, I admit.

Anonymous said...

Well Putin appears to think they do. He has resources. ;)

Grim said...

"The CIA would never let such a valuable asset slip through their fingers unless they were cut off."

Never ever? The CIA spent a lot more than that in Afghanistan. The Taliban couldn't have forced us out in another twenty years; but here we are.

The Agency is not what it used to be.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Putin also thinks that Russian and Ukrainian are the same language, which hasn't been true for a thousand years. He is significantly paranoid at this point, as even reasonable autocrats have a tendency to become after decades in power.

$5B wouldn't influence the NYC school budget all that much, let alone control a country. It is at least a better claim than the idea that the CIA installed the Shah of Iran in 1953 - which the CIA did claim, but was nuts.

Anonymous said...

OK. You people are certainly not going to believe the truth anyway. Too simple for your devious minds. ;)

Grim, look at a map.

So be it. The war goes on and will do so until the Ukraine is denazified, is how he put it.