Analysis of Putin’s nuclear threat 


  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) will initiate an inquiry into suspected war crimes by Putin in Ukraine. 
  • The United Nations General Assembly has demanded that Russia withdraw its soldiers from Ukraine. 

President Vladimir Putin, reportedly dissatisfied by the lack of success in his assault on Ukraine, has placed Russia’s deterrent weapons – including nuclear weapons – on high alert. Since this aggression, the question of how often nuclear weapons Moscow possesses and if they are a feasible option for Putin has grown much more pressing.  

“Putin is utilizing his nuclear arsenal in this way because it is a lever he has, one that is mysterious and completely terrifying,” said Dakota S Rudesill, associate professor at Ohio State University’s Mershon Center for International Security Studies. Furthermore, he claims that the Russians’ encounters with the opposition in Ukraine have influenced their decision.  

“Putin is looking for it now because the battle is likely not going as does, he had hoped.” “He wants to shift the game and reclaim the initiative,” Rudesill explained. “He wants his opponents to feel off-balance and scared, wondering how he could proceed next and against whom.”  

However, according to Alexander Lanoszka, an assistant professor at the university of political science at the University of Waterloo, Putin’s announcement was a strategic error.   

“It appeared to be an unavoidable approach used too soon.” This might be troublesome for Putin since subsequent threats may not be taken seriously. The US, NATO, and the EU do not appear to be concerned, as there have been no changes in the US, French, or British nuclear operations, according to Lanoszka.  

Large Weaponry 

Analysis of Putin nuclear threat 
Image source

In addition to atomic weapons, Russia has a large arsenal of long-range missiles with conventional warheads, sophisticated cruise and short-range weapons, and hypersonic weapons.  On the other hand, Russia is a significant economic power with its nuclear capability.   

“Russia’s nuclear arsenal is vast, with 14,000 atomic bombs in storage. Russia has around 2,400 strategic nuclear weapons, the majority of which are linked to the intercontinental ballistic missile force, according to Lanoszka. The majority of these weapons, however, are not instantly useable.

“Russia is thought to have 1,600 tactical nuclear weapons deployed… Most of these tactical nukes would be carried by sea, but many more would be transported by air or even ground.” 

Russia is the world’s most immense nuclear power with its nuclear arsenal, closely followed by the United States. Together, they control over 93 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons. The United States has 3,750 active and non-nuclear warheads, with 150 of them stationed in Europe.   

The United Kingdom maintains a sea-based deterrent of roughly 225 nuclear weapons, with about half operationally accessible on four submarines. One-third or so are on active deployment at any given time. According to Lanoszka, France possesses a nuclear stockpile of roughly 300 nuclear weapons.  

Spectators are pointing to holes in NATO’s deterrent posture because of this disparity in numbers. Considering how quickly nuclear warheads can be deployed, the sheer quantity of atomic weapons available worldwide becomes even more alarming.   

“According to journals and articles, US intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs] may be launched within one to five minutes of a presidential order, and US submarine ballistic missiles [SLBMs] can be launched within 15 minutes. “The Russian system might be responsive in the same way,” Rudesill speculated.   

There has, however, been debate about Russia’s nuclear strategy.  

“There’s been speculation in the West for decades about whether the Soviet Union constructed a mechanism that’d allow for the automation of nuclear weapons if the Soviet leadership were decapitated,” Rudesill stated.  

Low Threat 

Lanoszka believes that a nuclear confrontation between Russia & NATO is unlikely.   

“Remember that Putin’s current announcement primarily concerns the personnel of several nuclear command centres. Strategic and non-strategic forces appear to have maintained their current positions. Although the probability of nuclear weapons use is increased compared to normal circumstances, the hazard remains low for the time being.”  

Mutually assured destruction (MAD), a philosophy of war tactics and defence policy where exclusive use of nuclear weapons involving two or more opposing forces would destroy both attacker and the defence, has prevented any nuclear assaults in the past.  

“Because MAD remains the current order of circumstances among the major nuclear countries in their deterrent relationships, Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon remains highly unlikely.” Nuclear war is now more possible than it has been since the Cold War because of Putin’s reckless declaration and alarm. “Nuclear use is more plausible now than it has been since the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Rudesill added.   

Furthermore, Erika Simpson, professor of international politics at Western University, president of the Canadian Peace Research Association, and author of NATO and the Bomb, remarked that Putin’s persona is also to consider.  

“Putin’s threat of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine is insane. Is he insane? Has he gone insane due to being cut off from his family for the past two years owing to COVID? It appears to be the case. “Nuclear deterrence does not work with a crazed lunatic,” Simpson told Al Jazeera.   

“MAD is meant to apply – but we didn’t expect Putin to invade a sovereign country and put Russian military in jeopardy with over 4,200 casualties.” Putin is putting soldiers’ lives in jeopardy as if they were players in a chess match. Because nuclear deterrence needs a logical decision, as we learned from the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, these factors make it impossible for it to work correctly,” she said.  

“A nuclear assault on a tactical level is doable, but it will lead to a disastrous MAD escalation.”


Russia’s war: What are cluster bombs and thermobaric weapons? Source- Al Jazeera English

Edited by: Kiran Maharana

Published by: Vishakha Verma






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