Russia’s Putin Going Big with Nuke Threats — Why We Must Be Ready

During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual state-of-Russia address last week, he repeated the same kind of lies for years.

Moscow is “not the one who started the war in Donbas,” said Putin. It sounds eerily similar to what he repeated virtually up until he invaded Ukraine two years ago when he stated, “Russia will never start a war on Ukraine!” As well as “There are no Russian troops in Crimea!” when his units were occupying the peninsula in March 2014.

However, in the two-hour address in almost 10,000 preening, hypocritical, false words, he did have a kernel of truth. He threatened to end Russia’s participation in nuclear arms control unless the West assisted in settling the war in Ukraine — on Russia’s terms.

This isn’t the first time Vladimir Putin has reported blackmail involving nuclear weapons.

In his state-of-Russia 2018 address, he showcased all types of new nuclear weapons, going down the same list to confirm almost all of them are already deployed or soon will be.

Included are the world’s heaviest ballistic missiles, Sarmat; the massive nuclear-armed torpedo Poseidon; the hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile, Kinzhal; the hypersonic nuclear-tipped “glider block” Avangard; and the most destructive of all, the nuclear-powered cruise missile, Petrel, which could indefinitely stay aloft — and is referred to by experts as a “flying Chernobyl.”

But Putin has never before deployed a nuclear scare to intimidate the West, but instead to seek a quid pro quo.

Putin demanded that in exchange for Russia remaining within an arms-control regime, like the U.S.-Russian New START Treaty — which expires in two years — the “important issues of security and stability crucial for the entire planet” be discussed “within the same overall package” as “all the aspects that directly involve the security of Russia.”

Does the U.S. hope to discuss “the issues of strategic stability” with Russia while simultaneously looking to “defeat Russia strategically on the battlefield?” asked Putin rhetorically.

Although the Russian president didn’t specifically mention Ukraine, he didn’t need to. The Kremlin has long contended that Ukraine is actually in a proxy war with America.

The reason Putin’s strategy isn’t hard to discern.

Putin continues to burrow into Russia’s stores of men and money. The war is costing Russia an estimated $300 million per day and wounds or kills 50,000 soldiers every six months.

For Russia, outlasting the West and Ukraine for years to come is questionable.

For Putin, that calls for nukes.

Blackmail is unlikely to happen this time around. As much as the White House might be alarmed at the possibility of Russia exiting the New START, it isn’t going to stop assisting Ukraine.

However, as Russia sinks deeper into the quagmire, Putin might raise the stakes significantly with the West through a nuclear confrontation. 

A way to engineer this horrific story would be to invade a small country on the eastern flank of NATO, seize the territory through a rapid, brutal strike, and threaten America to unleash a nuclear war if it comes to the defense of an ally under the alliance charter Article Five.

The two most likely targets are Latvia and Estonia, with their significant population of ethnic Russians in the Latgale and Narva regions, which President Putin could claim to be a “liberation,” like Luhansk and Donetsk.

Russia could then declare the lands that were seized part of Russia and therefore covered by the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation’s Article 27, in which the government reserves the right to use nukes when “the very existence of the state is threatened.”

Putin alone would determine the scale of the threat.

As the West considers the horrific choice between surrender and Armageddon, Putin could offer to step back from the precipice and negotiate a “comprehensive settlement,” which would include Russia’s victory in Ukraine — that they’ll label “peace.”

Although the U.S. and West are finally starting to wake up to the possibility of aggression by Russia against a NATO country, an attack is predicted for a few years from now.

In linking Russia’s war in Ukraine with strategic nuclear weapons, Putin’s state-of-Russia address indicates the length of time for such an action for the country might be much shorter.

The West must start planning to deal with it. Now.