NUCLEAR WEAPONSHow the Biden Administration Is Responding to Putin’s Threats to Go Nuclear

By Christoph Bluth

Published 7 October 2022

Russia’s use of nuclear weapons would not necessarily be considered in contravention of Article 5 of the NATO treaty, whereby an attack on one is considered an attack on all and requires collective military defense. But experts say that a case could be made that if radiation from use of a nuclear warhead were to spill over into a NATO country, this could be construed as an attack.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the specter of nuclear weapons has hung over the conflict.

Several times – most recently after Russia annexed four Ukrainian provinces and declared them part of the federation – the Kremlin leadership has dropped heavy hints that they would use “all available means” at their disposal to defend themselves, particularly against any intervention from NATO.

This fits in with a key element of the theory of nuclear deterrence – the use of nuclear weapons as a threat, in this case to deter NATO from getting involved. When U.S. president Joe Biden declared he would not start “world war III” over Ukraine, this was taken as a clear reference to the risk of nuclear war.

But while Russia has been able to deter NATO from intervening, it has been unable to stop Western countries from imposing harsh sanctions, supplying advanced weaponry, training the Ukrainian military and providing intelligence. Now, having experienced a series of big setbacks in the field which has led many observers to declare that Russia is losing the war, there have been various signals that it might use low-yield tactical nuclear weapons to turn the conflict back in its favor.

Even as the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was signing the formal annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into the Russian Federation, Ukrainian troops were forcing their military back in rapid counterattacks in the south and east of the country which have regained significant swaths of territory and captured or killed thousands of Russian troops.

It has been reported recently that Russia has moved a train to the Ukraine border carrying equipment for the 12th main directorate of the Russian ministry of defense, which is responsible for nuclear munitions. Details as to exactly what it carried have yet to emerge. There have also been rumors that Russia plans a nuclear test – although these were dismissed by the Kremlin.

Influential Kremlin leader and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been highly critical recently of Russia’s conduct of the war, which he believes has not gone far enough, said, “In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” suggesting that such weapons should be used.