Russian President Vladimir Putin may resort to the use of nuclear weapons in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to a retired US Army General.
Kevin Ryan, former Chief of Staff for the US Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command, shared his insights with MailOnline, emphasising that while the deployment of nuclear weapons within Ukraine might appear extreme, it could be perceived as a strategic move to deter the West.
He said: “The exploding of a nuclear weapon inside Ukraine may seem like ‘overkill’ in a war against Ukraine, but in a war against the West, it could be seen as prudent deterrence.
“The bottom line is that the use of a nuclear weapon is entirely feasible, and the negative outcomes could be dismissed if the alternative is defeat.”
Ryan went on to explain that the reluctance to use tactical nuclear weapons thus far may be attributed to the effectiveness of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
“The only reason we haven’t seen tactical nuclear weapons is because Ukraine’s counteroffensive hasn’t been as successful as hoped,” he added.
According to Ryan, the strategic calculus for Russia involves weighing the potential consequences of irradiating territory within their occupied lands against the risk of losing the overall war or key territories such as Crimea.
“As far as Russia irradiating territory that is inside their occupied lands is concerned, I think Russian leaders would weigh that against losing a war – or against losing Crimea or a large part of their own army,” explained Ryan. “That’s not a bad trade in those cases for Russia.”
Highlighting the historical context of Russia’s reliance on tactical nuclear weapons, Ryan pointed out the challenges faced by Russia in modernising its conventional forces adequately.
“Although the West has relied more on conventional weapons since the end of the Cold War, Russia has had to continue to rely on tactical nuclear weapons to be prepared to achieve battlefield goals,” he stated. “The bottom line is that Russian military leaders see tactical nuclear weapons as a valid and useful escalation tool. So does Putin.”