An Ex-intelligence Head Has Warned That the Ukraine Crisis Has Raised the Likelihood of a Nuclear War.

As soon as Vladimir Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine, the photos from the fighting seemed vital while yet being far away. The bloodshed was horrific, and the diplomatic options looked bewildering to many Americans. Combat took occurring on another continent, though, and its ramifications looked to be just as far away.

Then, on Sunday, Putin broke the complacency of many in the West who thought they were safe from the fray. He gave the order for Russian nuclear forces to go into “special battle readiness,” a heightened degree of alert. Even if the Biden administration minimized and refused to reply in kind, the consequences of Putin’s move were substantial.

On the day of the invasion, he had previously warned that anyone who stood in Russia’s way would face “consequences… such as you have never seen in your whole history.” well before the assault. Increasing the force posture against Russia’s 6,000 nuclear weapons, he now ordered his military, a modest but crucial step towards the start of a global thermonuclear war.

Putin’s warning was a bluff, and Biden was correct in dismissing it. To do differently would have given Putin ammunition to reframe his aggression against Ukraine as part of a broader battle with the West for civilization. Putin’s decision to raise the alert level on his nuclear weapons should not be overstated either.

One of the safety mechanisms on the Russian nuclear weapon may have been removed, but this does not necessarily mean that Russia is ready to fire. Removing some of your safety nets “may make you feel safer” in the strange world of nuclear strategy, according to Pavel Podvig, a Geneva-based nuclear expert who monitors Russian nuclear posture.

An Ex-intelligence Head Has Warned That the Ukraine Crisis Has Raised the Likelihood of a Nuclear War.

Because Russia’s new military policy lowers the threshold for nuclear engagement, the movie is nonetheless a critical one — but not because it puts the world on the verge of nuclear disaster.

Vladimir Putin’s warning to use long-range nuclear weapons on the United States or any other NATO member is seen as a hollow threat, much like Trump’s “fire and fury” threat to Kim Jong-Un.

In response to a question about nuclear war with Russia, Vice President Joe Biden said emphatically, “No.” Vladimir Putin’s authority, as well as life on Earth as we know it, is meant to be guaranteed by the philosophy of mutually-assured annihilation that was developed during the Cold War.

That’s why the nuclear arsenals of both Russia and the United States have been kept secret for so long. Everyone was aware of their presence, but the danger of their deployment was long considered taboo.

Some nuclear experts believe that Russian troops may employ “tactical” nuclear weapons, which have a shorter range and lower explosive yields, to gain an edge on the battlefield, especially if they are losing combat. This issue has been debated for some time. Strangelovian-style, “escalate to deescalate,” or “E2D,” is this new ideology.

An official Kremlin paper stated that if “the life of the state itself is challenged,” Russia may respond with a nuclear strike in response to a conventional assault. To defend ethnic Russians living in Crimea after Russia’s illegal annexation, Putin stated he had contemplated placing Russian nuclear weapons on alert the next year.

E2D was included in the Nuclear Posture Review in 2018 because Trump’s national security staff believed it posed a significant danger. Using “limited first use” of nuclear weapons “might immobilize the United States and therefore conclude a fight on terms favorable to Russia,” according to that memo.

According to former intelligence head General James Clapper in an interview with Insider, Russia’s military now sees itself as having a lower threshold for the use of tactical nuclear weapons than previously thought. This was the Russians’ response, he explained, because the modern Russian Army is “a ghost of the Soviet Army” in comparison. Tactical nuclear weapons are a substantial compensation for a weak conventional force.

“Very little likelihood” is how Podvig, the Swiss expert, described the chances of even a “tactical nuclear strike.” As far as the Russian military is concerned, “it would not assist them to achieve any of their aims, and the political ramifications would be orders of magnitude worse than what we’re witnessing today.”

But Putin’s own troops might not carry out Putin’s commands if history is any guide. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Vasili Arkhipov and Stanislav Petrov were able to stop the Soviet Union from launching a nuclear strike at the eleventh hour when a military computer predicted a US strike.

Because of the person who’s making it, it’s hard not to take this threat very seriously. A few days into a terrible battle, Putin’s own ambassadors are said to be apologizing to him privately for his conduct. Russia’s unprovoked invasion is off to a poor start, with the country already losing more soldiers than the United States did in Afghanistan over a decade.

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There has been a lack of communication within the Russian military as well. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s charismatic movies, produced in Ukraine, have sparked new promises for weapons and tougher sanctions from Germany and NATO partners. Although it’s too early to tell how much of the Russian people are ready to turn against Putin, there’s a good chance that a perceived challenge to his reign might drive him to overreact.

In an interview with Face the Nation, former national security advisor General H.R. McMaster stated, “I don’t think he’s a logical actor.” “At least until 2036, he is motivated by a desire to remain in office. All of it is now in jeopardy, and I believe he realizes it.”

Clapper concurred that Putin’s behavior is becoming more erratic. In Clapper’s telling, “He was always harsh, cold, disciplined, even machine-like,” he said. “His rage is on full display now that he has vented his frustrations. Unfortunately, it’s frightening to listen to him go on incoherently.

No one can challenge him or argue with him.” He also said that a nuclear strike may be a way out of a position that is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for Putin.

As Clapper put it, “It’s a risk, or at least it’s riskier than it was a week ago.” That we’re even having this conversation shows that we’ve come to terms with the possibility that Putin may do something that we couldn’t have imagined.