Cornered Putin set to use nuclear option in Ukraine?

Facing military reversals in Ukraine and growing unpopularity in Russia, president Vladimir Putin might resort to a tactical nuclear weapon strike, western analysts fear

Cornered Putin set to use nuclear option in Ukraine?

Anjan Roy

The Ukraine war is taking a turn after seven and a half months which is worrying strategic experts and militaries in Europe in new ways.

If initially the worry was about an outright defeat of Ukraine and the presence of Russia in its eastern parts in a more aggressive posture, the prospect of an outright Russian defeat is looking even more threatening.

A huge explosion on a bridge offering the only lifeline for the Russian forces in occupied Crimea has severely jolted the Russian dispensation. The bridge has been so badly damaged that rail movement on it has been stalled.

As if to rub salt into the wound, the Ukrainians are in a celebratory mode, announcing the release of a postage stamp commemorating the destruction of the bridge. The head of Ukraine Post has announced the release of the postage stamp along with a first-day cover.

Such news of open defeat and defiance can no longer be hidden from the Russian public and damages whatever credibility the Kremlin still had with its people, reports indicate.

NATO, the umbrella defence organisation of the western alliance, is seriously worrying about a tactical nuclear weapon use by a cornered Russia under its president Vladimir Putin. All the efforts of the Russians on ground have come to a naught before the coordinated efforts of the Ukrainians.

As if to forestall any such disastrous move by the Russian president and to warn the Russian leadership about the cost of any drastic action by Putin, the US president, Joe Biden, had earlier spoken about the consequences for Russia if any nuclear move made by it. In fact, Biden’s open threat of a counter offensive surprised even the officials of his administration.

Domestic troubles are also mounting for Putin, with opposition to his war plans getting louder and vociferous. Even those people who are aligned with Putin are now talking openly about the Russia facing humiliation before the global audience.

Sources fear that if the domestic situation gets worse for Putin, he would be driven to the extreme for his survival. Some of the military experts are fearing that Putin has become imbalanced in a practical way and was likely to adopt ever more desperate steps.

His mobilisation effort has boomeranged for his dispensation as scores of younger Russians are leaving the country in droves.

Those who have been drafted are facing serious shortages in facilities, let alone training and equipment. The western media is reporting that even as the winter is approaching, these recruits have not even been given beds for their night stays and are forced to sleep on yoga mats.

Besides, the infamous private militia in Russia, which had played critical roles in Syria and other countries where Russia had undertaken military roles, are turning against Putin’s regime.

Wagner leaders are complaining that the Russian operations in Ukraine were totally uncoordinated and therefore it was difficult for them to make any meaningful interventions.

Wagner’s chief in Moscow is in a grumpy mood and showing signs of giving up the interventionist role in Ukraine. On the other hand, the Central Asian satellite nations which had supported Russia in many such operations are saying that the Putin regime is avoiding drafting white Russians and using their people to do the dirty job.

Indeed, their numbers are being used as cannon fodder. Devoid of proper weapons and training, these drafted soldiers are simply not equipped to face the agile and expert military operations by Ukraine.

As these failures mount and the news reaches the Russian public, the tide is turning fast against Putin. His ever so carefully nurtured macho image has been dented. Thus, he is facing a severe domestic threat.

In the face of this, NATO sources had voiced fears about Putin and his next moves. A nuclear intervention would surely isolate Russia from the global orders and even alienate its firm ally till now, China. But with Putin feeling cornered, his next move is completely unpredictable and could well be a drastic one.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 10 Oct 2022, 6:15 PM