Russia’s nuclear threats, US warnings and China’s new stance

In his recent speech, Mr Vladimir Putin hinted that he might proceed to use of nuclear weapons in order to defend his country, while recent information reveals that the US has been sending “private” warnings to Moscow for months about “severe consequences” if the Russian president took such action.

It is recalled that, in his speech, Putin declared partial mobilization and emphasized that if Russia’s territorial integrity is threatened, the Kremlin “will certainly use all the means at its disposal to protect Russia and its people”. pointing out that his warnings were not just a “bluff”.

For his part, Putin’s predecessor in the Russian presidency and current deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, said on Thursday that “any weapon can be used to protect the Russian Federation and its annexed territories, including strategic of nuclear weapons”.

However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday that Moscow is not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons and that open confrontation with the United States and NATO is not in Russia’s interests.

At the same time, Russia’s ambassador to the US said that, despite all the difficulties, he wants to believe that Moscow and Washington are not on the brink of “the abyss of a nuclear war”.

So what is the West’s role in these new developments, and to what extent should the planet worry about a nuclear attack, given that the Russian president is facing increasing difficulties and even his allies seem to be shifting their stance?

US-Moscow private talks

According to US officials, the US has been in talks with Moscow for several months, in which they have warned it of serious consequences in the event of nuclear use.

The Biden administration has so far deliberately kept those warnings vague so that the Kremlin worries about what Washington’s reaction might be, the officials said. This tactic is also known as “strategic ambiguity”.

The private talks with Moscow in question were held by the State Department, but officials did not reveal who exactly carried the messages from the US side or their exact content.

In addition, it remains unclear whether the US sent a new warning after Putin’s speech last Wednesday.

Biden’s mission

In this context, Western analysts report that the mission of American President Joe Biden is now clear and that is to guide the international community in the context of the greatest nuclear risk since the Cold War era.

First, Biden will have to find a way to prevent Putin from going down that path, while also preparing the U.S. response in the event that the Russian president does escalate.

According to an analyst at the Atlantic Council think tank, the American president has several options. One possible response in the event of a limited-scale nuclear attack by Russia would be to tighten the measures already taken against Moscow.

This kind of response would aim to prevent further escalation. But the problem is that this solution may not be effective enough to stop Putin. Moreover, such a limited response on the part of the US would appear extremely inadequate both to Ukraine and the rest of the world.

For the above reasons, Biden’s response should be more decisive.

Two military options

The American president has two military options available to him: One is to respond in kind, by carrying out a small-scale nuclear “demonstration” in the Arctic Ocean or in remote areas of Siberia, as a “warning” to Putin.

This, however, could turn the Russia-West confrontation into an apocalypse scenario, possibly leading to a series of such exercises. It should also be noted that Russia has about 10 times more nuclear warheads than the US. It is very difficult to work out the possible scenarios, especially if the factor of human error is taken into account. There would be the danger of Armageddon.

So the best option would be a US conventional strike against Russian forces. The target could be the very base from which the nuclear strike was launched. Or it could be Russian troops in Ukraine.

That response would send Putin the message that he cannot escalate and de-escalate tensions, because the West will step in to crush him. The problem with this tactic is that it would lead to an immediate conflict between Russia and NATO and by extension the risk of World War III.

However, there are analysts who doubt that Putin would take such a risk at a time when his allies such as China and India appear to be moving away from him.

Change of attitude by Russia’s allies

Western officials have said many times that Russia has become isolated from the international community because of its invasion of Ukraine. Until recently, however, these statements could be characterized more as wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, much of the international community spoke out against the war at the UN. However, it is emphasized that the facts were turning against Putin even before these positions. The leaders of China and India appeared to criticize the war at the Uzbekistan Summit.

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The same thing happened at the General Assembly of the United Nations, where these two countries spoke of serious concerns regarding the food and energy shortages caused by the war in Ukraine. In addition, they spoke of threats to the principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity as described in the UN Charter.

Only Belarus spoke out in support of Russia, but it also called for a quick end to the hostilities, which it called a “tragedy”.

The case of China

As far as Beijing is concerned, the change in attitude toward Putin is not particularly surprising, especially after Russia’s recent humiliating defeats in Ukraine, which exposed Putin’s weaknesses to both his rivals and allies.

Some Chinese analysts say that the difficulties facing Putin and the escalation of the war present an opportunity for China to distance itself from Russia.

But others remain skeptical and argue that Putin’s acceptance of Beijing’s misgivings does not necessarily signal a rift between the two allies.

Instead, it could be a way for China to gain some diplomatic leeway, especially since its tacit support for Russia has damaged Beijing’s image in Europe, said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Studies. Europe and Asia.

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What’s next for the West?

Putin’s latest threats have put both the US and Europe in a difficult position as Western leaders now face “thorny” choices.

An Atlantic Council analyst says the US government needs to take Putin’s threats seriously while keeping a cool head. He also points out that Putin has not used nukes so far because he fears a backlash from the US and NATO, who should pick up on the Russian president’s fear and use it to reinforce their deterrent warnings.

In a statement, the White House warned that Russia’s use of nuclear weapons would have “severe consequences.” If, according to the same analyst, Moscow chooses this path, the US would have to carry out a limited military strike against the Russian forces that would have launched the nuclear attack. Kyiv, meanwhile, will have to keep fighting to win the war.

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