Russia may prefer sabotaging critical infrastructure to nuclear weapons

The author directs the Center for the USA and Europe at the Brookings Institution

He can? would he? He will? Western capitals are concerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repeated nuclear measures threats. Joe Biden, the US President, conjured up a possible “Armageddon” at a fundraiser by the Democratic Party. Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, explained to a prime-time TV audience how Paris would respond to a Russian nuclear attack “on Ukraine or in the region” – not with a nuclear counter-strike, it said.

In Berlin, senior officials are murmuring darkly and unofficially about various scenarios. On Monday, the head of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned in Parliament against the use of “substrate nuclear weapons” in Moscow.

Putin tends to double when he’s on the defensive – which he is now, both on the battlefield in Ukraine and against a churning maelstrom of criticism at home. So there is no question that responsible Western leaders must prepare for this dire eventuality.

But the mistake is to constantly talk or even think about it and let that distract you from other threats that are at least as serious and perhaps more likely.

The top man in the Kremlin is a Chekist: a secret police officer trained in the Leninist tradition of coercion through political terror. The cruelty and malice of his war crimes in Ukraine – murder, rape, kidnapping, indiscriminate bombing of cities and power plants – are intended to cripple the political will and resilience of Ukrainians and their Western backers. So far they have achieved the opposite.

The threats of nuclear weapons and the continuous shelling of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia have the same goal: to spread fear and paralysis. Policymakers in Berlin should consider the possibility that this latest twist on the Kremlin’s messages is aimed squarely at German public opinion, which has been nervous about nuclear disasters since they front-rowed the Cold War for “mutually assured destruction.” ‘ sat.

However, the use of substrategeic nuclear weapons – so called because they have a shorter range and lower yield – would require extensive, visible preparation and perhaps even testing. It would require senior Russian military commanders to comply.

Such weapons are of limited value on the battlefield, especially against a force as agile and dispersed as the Ukrainian military. They could endanger Russian forces. Targeting Ukrainian cities would massively increase pressure to charge Kremlin leaders with war crimes. Use against a NATO member state would trigger Article V, a “catastrophic‘ Answer – in the words of US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan – and very likely war. Russia’s allies in the Global South would turn away.

It seems, in sum, like a really bad idea. Western intelligence officials cautiously emphasize that so far they have seen no signs of Russian nuclear forces going on alert.

In contrast, consider the recent explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines, the cable cuts that halted trains across northern Germany, and the hacking of the computers from several US airports. All three incidents involved intentional attacks with extensive preparation and highly specialized technological know-how. These are signs that point to Russia as the suspected perpetrator.

Sabotage—another Chekist specialty—offers far better value for money than nuclear weapons. Attacks on physical and digital infrastructure are hard to prevent and even harder to track down. They erode trust in government and exploit the cracks and vulnerabilities of Western societies. They allow an opponent to evade retaliation and play for time. Expect more such incidents, maybe many more.

Threats like these are not subject to negotiation or territorial concessions. Neither Ukraine nor the European countries that support Kyiv are safe as long as Putin is in power and the Kremlin persists in its imperial ambitions. Only the Russians themselves can change these two facts about their country. Both can take a long time.

But Western governments should calmly, collectively, and unequivocally state the consequences that would result if Putin became the first leader to use nuclear weapons in anger since 1945. Otherwise, they should ignore him – and calmly concentrate on putting a spanner in the works. One way to do this is by helping Ukraine win. Russia may prefer sabotaging critical infrastructure to nuclear weapons

Adam Bradshaw

TheHitc is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button