Moscow has rejected suggestions that it would opt for tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war, but things on the battlefield are going so badly for Russia that many observers are increasingly worried about how President Vladimir Putin will react.
Among them is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, who warned on Sunday: “The war is not going too well for Russia right now. So it is incumbent on all of us to maintain high states of readiness.”
His remarks followed a visit to a military base in Poland, where he urged increased vigilance among US troops, according to Reuters. “In the conduct of war, you just don’t know with a high degree of certainty what will happen next,” he added.
President Joe Biden asked on a Sunday 60 minutes segmenting what he would say to Putin if he considered them (or chemical weapons), he replied: “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. It would change the face of war like nothing since World War II.”
Meanwhile, the Russian battlefield expert was questioned this weekend by the Institute for the Study of War, a major think tank. Instead of fending off Ukrainian counteroffensives in the eastern Kharkiv region, the panel noted, Putin’s troops were prioritizing “nonsensical” offensive operations in several villages that had “emotional significance for pro-war residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic”. [but of] little other importance”.
Ukrainian forces recently pushed back Russian troops in a lightning counteroffensive in the northeast of the country. Russia’s defense ministry described it as a “regroup”, but a military expert called it a defeat.
“The last few days appear to have been the most consequential of the war in Ukraine,” military expert Mike Martin wrote in a Twitter thread last weekend. “After what we have seen over the past 72 hours, the collapse of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine does not seem far off.”
The setback came amid signs of eroding support at home for Putin, who is under pressure from nationalists to regain the initiative.
Others also warned this week about Putin’s possible reactions to the Ukraine battlefield success. Rose Gottemoeller, former deputy general of NATO, told BBC Radio Today he fears that Russian forces “will now strike back in truly unpredictable ways that may even involve weapons of mass destruction.”
A nuclear strike could be “a single strike over the Black Sea or perhaps an attack on a Ukrainian military installation,” he said. The goal would be “to get the Ukrainians in their terror to capitulate.”
“I’m worried about that kind of scenario at the moment,” he added.
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