- Vladimir Putin on Wednesday escalated his war in Ukraine with a direct threat of nuclear war.
- But experts say the threat indicates that Putin is running out of military options.
- One expert said Putin was “increasingly aware of the limitations of his actual military options”.
Vladimir Putin threatened, on Wednesday, to use nuclear weapons in a flagrant escalation of his war in Ukraine.
But the Russian president’s bold warning is not a show of legitimate power, but a signal that the Russian military is faltering, according to experts.
On Wednesday, after more than seven months of war, Putin announced a partial military mobilization in an effort to tackle Russia’s workforce problem amid a string of recent Ukrainian victories. During his televised address, the president baselessly accused the West of threatening to use nuclear weapons and responded by acknowledging Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
“To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of the NATO countries,” he said.
“And if 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 hoax.”
Putin’s nuclear threats are a scare tactic targeting Ukraine’s allies.
Amid mounting military casualties, deteriorating troop morale, and shifting public sentiment, it makes sense why Putin is turning to his warheads, said Simon Miles, associate professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and historian of the Soviet Union and the United States. Soviet relations.
“The poor performance of the Russian military on the battlefield in Ukraine was an important reminder that any claim Russia may have as a great power depends almost entirely on its nuclear arsenal,” Miles said.
Putin’s message, Miles hypothesized, is also directed at Ukraine’s global supporters.
“Putin has often tried and failed to break the resolve of pro-Ukraine supporters, and his latest threats are no different,” Miles said. “He is clearly growing aware of how limited his actual military options are in this war.”
Ukraine earlier this month scored one of its biggest victories to date, launching simultaneous offensives in the northeast and south in Effective effort to recover occupied lands. Reports from the front lines indicated that Russian forces fled while the country’s army collapsed under the strong performance of Ukraine.
“The Russians are frustrated, disorganized, unmotivated, just trying to survive,” Robert English, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies Russia, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe, told Insider. “Ukrainian fighting spirit and the US arms industry joined forces to thwart [Putin’s] He plans in a big way.”
Russian prospects remain bleak, especially given the West’s continued military support for Ukraine. The latest attack on the country, while being carried out by Ukrainian forces, was made possible thanks to American and British intelligence, strategy and weapons.
“As long as the West is supplying more and better weapons – and we are providing more and better weapons – the pressure on the Russian forces will increase,” English said.
Experts believe that Putin is unlikely to act on his threat.
Putin’s threat with “civilization-extinguishing capabilities,” as Miles puts it, does not mean that the United States or any other Ukrainian ally should turn and run.
“Threats are one thing – actually using these weapons in a way that serves the Kremlin’s goal is another,” Miles said.
He said that a Russian offer of a nuclear weapon was unlikely to break the will of the West, and could even strengthen it further. Meanwhile, the use of a weapon in Ukraine would have dire consequences for Ukrainian forces – but Russian soldiers fighting in the country would also pay the price.
Several experts previously told Insider that Russia is unlikely to use nuclear weapons, even if it made the threat. Miles added that logistics alone make the prospect a low-risk.
“Russian nuclear weapons are placed in bunkers all over the country, including in the far west near Ukraine,” he said. “The process of transitioning to readiness, mating warheads with delivery platforms, will generate a significant amount of observable phenomena for US intelligence and an opportunity for Washington to show the Kremlin how bad the idea is.”