Putin Is Bluffing On Tactical Nukes In Ukraine: U.S. Expert
Nina Srinivasan Rathbun, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and a former official at the Department of State, says Russian and US nuclear strategies focus on deterrence, and so involve large-scale retaliatory nuclear attacks in the face of any first-nuclear weapon use.
Photo Insert: "Under any reasonable strategy, using the weapons is unthinkable and so threatening their use is by definition a bluff.”
“This means that Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent to conventional war is threatening an action that would, under nuclear warfare doctrine, invite a retaliatory nuclear strike if aimed at the US or NATO, Rathbun wrote for The Conversation.
“I believe Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine would not achieve any military goal. It would contaminate the territory that Russia claims as part of its historic empire and possibly drift into Russia itself. It would increase the likelihood of direct NATO intervention and destroy Russia’s image in the world,” she added.
“Putin aims to deter Ukraine’s continued successes in regaining territory by preemptively annexing regions in the east of the country after holding staged referendums. He could then declare that Russia would use nuclear weapons to defend the new territory as though the existence of the Russian state were threatened. But I believe this claim stretches Russia’s nuclear strategy beyond belief,” Rathbun argued.
“Putin has explicitly claimed that his threat to use tactical nuclear weapons is not a bluff precisely because, from a strategic standpoint, using them is not credible. In other words, under any reasonable strategy, using the weapons is unthinkable and so threatening their use is by definition a bluff,” she concluded.