Under no circumstances should nuclear weapons be deployed in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. While very few people believe this to be an end-all-be-all solution to the conflict, it does seem to be a thought on the forefront of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mind. From his point of view this would put a stop to the drawn out invasion that has gone on entirely too long, considering the military strength of Ukraine. This way of thinking is absolutely incorrect. Nuclear weapons have not been deployed since the end of World War II, in Japan, and while that did lead to a Japanese surrender, hundreds of thousands of people died. Some might say that the ends justify the means, in that case, but in a country like Ukraine that is already so wartorn, it would be a step too far. To better appreciate why President Putin might feel the need to deploy weapons of mass destruction, an understanding is needed of the losses that Russia has endured in this nearly eight month war. When Russia began to invade Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, many believed that the conflict would not last long and that Russia would win a resounding victory. This is not what happened. Russia attempted to take the “Ukrainian capital, Kyiv” as a way to destabilize the country’s government, but was wildly unsuccessful, and was forced to retreat (NYT). This began a long streak of humiliating losses that Russia has been unable to overcome. By June, Ukraine was beginning to take back territory that was lost in the original invasion. “Snake Island” an island in the “Black Sea” near the coast of Ukraine was recaptured by Ukrainian forces and one of the largest ships in the Russian military, “the Moskva” was sunk (NYT). On top of these failures Russia has started a campaign of war crimes. No target seems to be off limits, even those protected by international law. Russia has bombed without remorse hospitals, apartment buildings, and even a “train station” full of people wishing to escape the conflict (NYT). Now, in the month of October, Russia has seen another setback to their war effort. Ukraine was able to blow up “the only bridge” that linked Crimea to Russia (CNN). Now this is important because Russian forces used this bridge to transport “vehicles, armor, and fuel,” to continue their war effort (CNN). Apparently, people involved in the bombing were able to drive a truckload of explosives onto the bridge and detonate it, rendering the bridge unuseable. President Putin has said that the bombing was a “terrorist attack” and eight people have been arrested. However, “five” of those people were “Russian” citizens which raises more concerns for Putin’s war in Ukraine (CNN). Recently President Putin has declared that regular male Russian citizens must be drafted to his failed war effort. This has “reignited” “anti war demonstrations” and protests across the country (Reuters). This has even caused many to flee the country in an effort to “avoid the draft (Reuters).” This along with the bridge bombing raises the question: Are Russian citizens so against the war that they would be willing to help Ukraine win it? If so, with not even his citizenry aligned with him, President Putin only has extreme measures left, such as nuclear weapons.
Now the Russian military does state that nuclear weapons are only to be used if Russia “itself is threatened.” However President Putin has been threatening to use them in response to what he claims are “Western nuclear threats.” However, this makes little sense. While western
countries have provided Ukraine with military and monetary support, nothing has been done in the way of nuclear weapons. Putin apparently sees a threat where there isn’t one, which may cause him to act without logical cause, and unaligned with the Russian military. Putin’s use of nuclear weapons would surely cause the international community to step into the conflict in ways that go beyond simple military or financial support, and lead to the conflict spiraling out of control with far more players than it originally started with. Putin and the world knows that mutually assured destruction is not the way to win a war, but when trapped in a discouraging eight month long conflict, a leader may do anything to win.
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