“Russia’s nuclear doctrine allows the use of such munitions if weapons of mass destruction are used against it or if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons. We will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff,” Putin warned.
The above statement is an operative excerpt from what Russian President Putin said. The term “existential threat” directly implies that if ‘red lines’ defined by Russia are likely to be crossed, Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons.
Ironic but true, except for the usage of different words, Pakistan leadership has also expressed a similar determination to use nukes if the Indian military with conventional weapons was in a position to threaten Pakistan.
Western Nations Crossing The ‘Red Line’
The latest decision of Germany and the US to send their most modern tanks in substantial numbers to Ukraine might be the proverbial ‘red line,’ which Western nations are about to cross.
The Russia-Ukraine war will be 365 days old on February 24, 2023. A considerable quantity of arms and ammunition has already been sent to Ukraine by western nations led by the USA. The latest platform to be sent to Ukraine will likely be Leopard tanks from Germany and its allies and US-made Abrams tanks.
Leopard tanks of German origin might reach Ukraine in a matter of days from dispatch from Germany and Poland. However, US Abrams tanks will take a little longer to reach Ukraine.
The most relevant operational issue is whether Russia will wait for supplies of Leopard and Abrams tanks to reach Ukraine. The possibility of Air Interdiction by the Russian Air Force on supply from Germany/Poland by land route cannot be ruled out.
Although it would imply the Russian Air Force is striking well within the territory of NATO member nation Germany. Likewise, interdiction of US ships carrying Abrams tanks on high seas might also be an option.
Russia is unlikely to allow the bolstering of Ukraine’s land forces by nearly 60 plus Leopard and Abram tanks. Russian options, therefore, are limited to either preventing the supplies en route to Ukraine or escalating the war by issuing a direct threat of the use of nukes if USA/Germany/Poland do not retract from their decision to send tanks to Ukraine.
Putin’s decision-making ability is exemplary, especially in adversity. Be it his decision to use gas to flush out the terrorists from an auditorium, knowing fully well that innocent civilians, too, will be killed, or his decision to simultaneously commence an attack on Ukraine from North, South, and East.
Russia To Retaliate With Nukes?
Western nations’ decision to continue and escalate the war in Ukraine by providing major weapon platforms viz HIMARS Rocket system and now tanks will almost certainly push Russia in the corner, leaving no option but to retaliate.
Retaliation could almost certainly be in the form of low yield/low air burst Tactical Nuclear Weapon over Germany.
Self-proclaimed ‘peacekeeper’ of the world, the USA has sent nearly USD 48 Billion as aid to Ukraine to fight Russia. Weapons, equipment, and security aid amount to almost USD 23 billion. Direct financial and humanitarian assistance amounts to USD 25 Billion. In addition to the USA, nearly 40 countries have provided direct military aid to Ukraine.
Weapons supplied by the USA to Ukraine range from infantry weapons, air defense systems, air-to-ground missiles, explosive and surveillance drones, manned aircraft (20 Mi-17s), artillery pieces, tanks and armored carriers, ground support vehicles (1000 Humvees), satellite communication terminals, radars of various kinds, communication facilities, ECM/ECCM equipment to name a few.
And then the USA advocates that it is being done to protect/promote democracy. The only nuclear offender of the globe, the USA, is about to force Russia into using nukes in Europe.
What an outstanding example of international diplomacy wherein an ‘innocent’ friend thousands of miles from US shores might suffer the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but not at the hands of the proclaimed nuclear offenders but by its (mis)deeds forcing another nation Russia to use nukes.
Gp Cpt TP Srivastava (Retd) is an ex-NDA who flew MiG-21 and 29. He is a qualified flying instructor. He commanded the MiG-21 squadron. He is a directing staff at DSSC Wellington and chief instructor at the College of Air Warfare.