As Russia swirls on Ukraine’s battlefields, the once unthinkable possibility of using nuclear weapons is now increasing as opportunities for President Vladimir Putin’s victory narrow. Tactical nuclear weapons have not been part of strategic thinking since the end of the Cold War in 1991. What are these weapons and what will be the value of their use?
What are they?
Tactical nuclear warheads were created to give military commanders more flexibility on the battlefield. In the mid-1950s, when more powerful thermonuclear bombs were being built and tested, military planners thought that smaller weapons with shorter range would be more useful in “tactical” or military situations.
Modern warheads have variable performance, which means that the operator can determine its explosive power, and tactical weapons can be from a fraction of a kiloton to 50 knots. To sense the scale, the weapon that destroyed Hiroshima was about 15 kt. One kiloton in power is equivalent to thousands of tons of TNT, an explosive.
Tactical weapons were intended for use against the concentration of troops, ships, assembly stations, airfields, etc. During the Cold War, it was integrated into all levels of military planning, both NATO and its communist equivalent, the Warsaw Pact.
Only the Czechoslovak army had plans to use 131 nuclear weapons against NATO targets in its initial attack. Other members of the Warsaw Pact and NATO had their own plans to use nuclear weapons.
Any such exchange would immediately make much of Central Europe uninhabitable, as the concern is that the tactical use of nuclear weapons will very quickly turn into strategic nuclear use if much of the United States, the Soviet Union, France and the United Kingdom are destroyed in space. in the afternoon.
Why should Russia use them?
If the stakes are so high, why would anyone take such a risk?
Russia has done badly in this war, the myth of its new professional armed forces lies in rags, the country’s international prestige is at the bottom.
The ineffective, incompetent and incompetently brutal Russian military has another chance to break their misfortunes on the battlefield when a new wave of reinforcements taken from abroad begins to make itself felt.
If Putin can’t get out of this war with what looks like a victory, or if Russian soldiers usually break up, the chances of Russia using nuclear nuclear power to bolster its status as a world power will begin to grow.
All tactical nuclear weapons are “strategic”
Most of the calculations of how the United States and Russia will react to the use of nuclear weapons arise during the Cold War and the subtle “balance of terror” that kept the world safe but in fear. The use of nuclear weapons has been a taboo that has not been broken since the bombing of Nagasaki in the last days of World War II. During the next Cold War, the uninterrupted integration of nuclear weapons at all levels of military planning and its use by both sides made the use of only one weapon a trigger for a global nuclear conflict in which the destruction of all was “mutually guaranteed.”
One thing nuclear weapons had to do was deter each other from the possibility of a large-scale invasion of Europe, the epicenter of post-World War II Cold War conflict. NATO and Warsaw Pact forces maintained constant readiness in case of hostilities. This did not prevent the Warsaw Pact from suppressing uprisings in its sphere of influence in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. However, there were no major wars between the two blocs, and a difficult peace was maintained.
But after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact at the end of the Cold War, NATO expanded eastward to absorb most of the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. Implementation of significant nuclear arms reduction treaties has successfully reduced US and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Both now own only part of the nuclear weapons that were at their disposal.
The ideas and doctrine of nuclear deterrence atrophied as the Armageddon danger receded. Budget funds for defense were directed at the acute problems of occupation and the fight against insurgents, the so-called “Global War on Terror”.
The doctrine is as useful as detailed plans, but in the worst nuclear crisis, when the United States clashed with Soviet nuclear weapons off the coast of Cuba in 1962, all those plans were pushed aside because they all led to one thing: global destruction. Instead, in this game of nuclear poker with the whole planet at stake, intense negotiations, civilian feedback channels, last-minute private assurances and bluffing between the two superpowers won. This dialogue ignored military thinking, focusing on the dynamics between US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and their teams.
But in 2022, two very different people are running, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The questions are simple: will Putin break the nuclear taboo by using these weapons in anger for the first time in 77 years? And if so, how will President Biden respond?
So, if Russia detonated just one nuclear weapon, say, over a military target, would the United States risk climbing the escalating ladder in retaliation in kind, with global destruction waiting for the top rung? President Biden recently signed a memorandum allowing the U.S. to use nuclear weapons in response to a chemical or nuclear attack. However, Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so Biden would take revenge in such a way as to protect Ukraine, risking destroying a country already ravaged by war. One of the ironies of the nuclear weapon, which the Ukrainian people have not lost, is that not only has it not deterred Russia from invading Ukraine, but the potential use of nuclear weapons has actually deterred NATO from coming to Ukraine’s aid.
Russia has strengthened its position of nuclear preparedness, which is alarming, but not an unusual act during the war. However, Russia has previously hinted at the use of nuclear weapons. In 2015, he threatened to attack Denmark from all countries if it joined NATO’s missile shield.
Because the war in Ukraine is going so badly, scenarios that President Putin could call victorious or successful for Russia are rapidly diminishing, and Putin’s political survival is now increasingly linked to the outcome of the conflict.
Weakened leaders – with a strong sense of survival, their armed forces failing and the country’s prestige at the bottom – may be tempted to remind the world that if they don’t win this conflict, no one will win in the next and that Russia may be down but not coming out .