But wars are very unpredictable, and there are ample precedents in history where a nuclear demonstration has been considered, beginning with the United States. And so the West needs to do some thinking, too. But he might not have to, because if Putinwere to go nuclear, experts believe most other countries in the world, including many that are sitting on the fence in the current conflict, would quickly turn against and isolate Russia. Mr. Stoltenberg, sounding far more hawkish than in the past, said he expected allies will agree to provide additional support, including cybersecurity assistance and equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiologic and nuclear threats.. As far as I know, he says, The smallest warhead they have in their arsenal is a 10 kiloton warhead, or about two-thirds Hiroshima size. Although nuclear weapons have not been used since the American attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the late summer of 1945, concerns about their use are higher than they have been in decades. There are a few ways that such a tactical nuclear weapon could be used to fire the kind of warning shot envisioned in Russian military doctrine. Just a month ago, such scenarios seemed more theoretical. The resulting electromagnetic pulse unexpectedly knocked out streetlights and disrupted telephone service in Hawaii, 900 miles distant. Germany would likely lead the crew, the former president told me. Those contingencies are expected to be central to an extraordinary session here in Brussels on Thursday, when President Biden meets leaders of the 29 other NATO nations, who will be meeting for the first time behind closed doors, their cellphones and aides banished since Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine. But the official said the administration believed it would be misguided not to closely examine the thresholds, if any, under which the president would reverse himself, or to be prepared to deal with the consequences of the use of weapons of mass destruction. But he said that during internal discussions, administration officials were urging caution, because there was more at stake than just Ukraine. All embassies shut. It would lead to war crime charges versus Putin and all who carried out the order. This would likely include the immediate complete halting of purchases of Russian oil and gas, and the provision to Ukraine of much more advanced weapons systems including missiles that could strike well into Russian territory. If he uses it against a city, we still respond with more assistance. If Mr. Putin did strike a NATO country intentionally, he would not only bring the force of the military alliance to bear on Russia, but also probably find himself facing NATO troops inside Ukraine, Artis Pabriks, Latvias defense minister, told reporters traveling in his country this month with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For practical reasons there were too few bombs in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and some feared a dud the demonstration option was never presented to Truman. But the warning shot idea would surface again and be taken more seriously. The United States would need to avoid any kind of nuclear escalation in the interest of the U.S. and its allies, but also for global survival, she said.
All this comes against the backdrop of a Russian nuclear doctrine that has evolved in what Western officials consider disturbing ways.In a 1993 document, Russia said it would use nuclear weapons only when the existence of the country was threatened. Israel has also considered a nuclear demonstration; prior to the Six-Day War, in May 1967, Shimon Peres proposed detonating a nuclear device over the Sinai desert to head off the conflict. The immediate concern is what Mr. Putin may do next driven by a desire to rescue a failing military effort or re-establish his credentials as a force to be feared. Ukraine awaits aid and arms from the U.K. and U.S. U.S. officials also emphasized that in such circumstances, it would be expected that the first use of a nuclear weapon would be as a warning shot, likely the detonation of a device in the upper atmosphere. : Russia blocking food exports; using supplies as 'stealth missile', Ukraine's Zelenskyy says more than 31,000 Russian troops have been killed since invasion, Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman: Russia waging a war on the world through food scarcity, Putin issues warning if allies send Ukraine long-range weapons. That team played a central role in devising the playbooks of deep sanctions, troop buildups in NATO nations and arming the Ukrainian military, which have exploited Russian weaknesses and put its government and economy under tremendous pressure. We must make clear to Putin that he will not win. Courtney Kube is a correspondent covering national security and the military for the NBC News Investigative Unit. Putin will be signing the order on changing the regime., But two U.S. officials briefed on the issue did not agree, with one saying, Unless they use them on NATO were probably not going to respond militarily.. Heres how to think about the unthinkable. The administration has faced criticism that it has moved too slowly to send advanced weapons to Ukraine, but the White Houses supporters say the administration has focused on avoiding actions that could escalate the crisis into a direct clash between Russia and the U.S. Realistically, the U.S. would look for ways to respond short of launching a nuclear weapon, possibly through cyber operations or other support for Ukraine, said Gottemoeller.. But Edmonds noted that calls for a military response to a Russian use of nuclear weapons would be deafening in Washington. However, Hendrik-Ilves adds: To use a nuclear weapon breaks the ultimate taboo. Ambiguity could enhance deterrence and complicate Russian attempts to avoid our response by navigating around specific if-then conditions.. The doctrine also allows for the use of nuclear weapons in response to large-scale aggression using conventional weapons in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation.Experts have described that strategy as escalate to de-escalate, and they say it means that Russia is willing to make limited use of nuclear weapons to win what would otherwise be a conventional war. If Putin uses a tactical nuclear weapon against Ukraine forces, its just another weapon. This opens the question of what would be the best U.S. or NATO response. I worry that people are not being open-minded to the reality thatthere are scenarios in which Russia could use nuclear weapons. This isnt new to the Biden administration. A Russian attack on Ukraine with a tactical nuclear weapon would pose an excruciating dilemma for Washington and its NATO allies. He added, Nothing weve seen suggests theyre at the precipice of taking such action. CIA Director Burns, in remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology last Thursday, said, Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadershipnone of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons. On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy echoed this warning saying that the international community should be concerned about Russian use of nuclear or chemical weapons, saying, We should not be afraid but be ready.. In 1981, with the Cold War again heating up, Secretary of State Alexander Haig a former NATO supreme allied commander let slip that there are contingency plans in the NATO doctrine to fire a nuclear weapon for demonstrative purposes . All Russian properties confiscated., Former U.S. Chemical weapons are horrible, but limited. While none of the above scenarios is currently likely, neither are they far-fetched. If he strikes a NATO country, then we have to respond militarily. Further, the US along with others should launch air strikes in support of Ukrainian ground forces with the aim of defeating the Russian forces in Ukraine, the proximate cause of the nuclear strike. There are a wide range of options that NATO would considermany of which would produce lasting, disastrous consequences for Russia.
Only if there are a series of nuclear strikes would I recommend a nuclear response., Jon Wolfsthal, who served as senior director for arms control and non-proliferation on the Obama administrations National Security Council said, We should not say precisely what a response to nuke use should be, but make clear it would change the entire nature of the conflict. David E. Sanger,Eric Schmitt,Helene Cooper and Julian E. Barnes. You dont want to get in that box, because once you are in that nuclear war-fighting mindset, you cant control it., The Biden administrations track record so far suggests it would move cautiously, in consultation with its European allies, and seek to avoid plunging the world into a nuclear conflagration, former officials said.. A more provocative demonstration would be an ultra-high-altitude explosion of a more powerful weapon over Ukraine itself. So I dont think he should be so stupid.. In the event of a first use, we step up military support even more and make clear any use of nukes against NATO would mean a massive expansion of the conflict., This view is echoed by other nuclear weapons experts, such as the Quincy Institutes Joe Cirincione who said, U.S. We provide more assistance. The current team was established in a memo signed by Jake Sullivan, Mr. Bidens national security adviser, on Feb. 28, four days after the invasion began, according to the officials involved in the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning. But it is early in the conflict, other officials caution, and that conclusion may prove premature. Depending on the height of the explosion, it could also spread lingering radioactive fallout, possibly extending into NATO member countries and Russia itself. The stakes change dramatically if they use a nuke or actual chemical weapons [as opposed to industrial chemicals]. But Russias steady stream of reminders that it has its arsenal at the ready, and could use it in response to anything it perceives as an existential threat, has put Washington on high alert. A U.S. official said Mr. Biden remained adamant about keeping American forces out of Ukraine. Says Lute, Crossing the nuclear threshold, no matter the target, should cause a precise conventional attack on the origin of the Russian attack, even if it is on Russian territory, which it likely would be. Mr. King said that as Russian forces struggle to make headway, Mr. Putin could try to strike a diplomatic agreement, intensify his bombardment of Ukrainian cities and level them, or lash out against the West with a cyberattack. But even the smallest nuclear weapon would set fires over a wide area if detonated in the air. Should military-grade chemical weapons be used, a question would be whether military or civilians were targeted. If Russia decided to use one, its options could include an attack on an airbase or other military target, an attack on a Ukrainian city or a test of a nuclear weapon at a remote site a warning shot designed to signal Moscows willingness to use the ultimate weapon, former officials said.It could deliver the weapon as a bomb, or via a missile. Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik-Ilves worries that the use of a nuclear weapon would rattle many European leaders. A second team of officials, also created by Mr. Sullivans Feb. 28 memo, is looking at long-term opportunities for the United States to improve its geopolitical position as a result of Mr. Putins invasion. They mentioned that Russian doctrine had a lower threshold for the use of nuclear weapons than other nations, but that it was still pretty high. According to that doctrine, there were two kinds of events that would warrant consideration of the use of nuclear weapons. A senior administration official said any use of a small tactical nuclear bomb by Russia even inside Ukraine and not directed at a NATO member would mean that all bets are off on the United States and NATO staying out of the war. It is unlikely that Putineven at the moment of his greatest arrogance or frustrationwould willingly undertake a battle with a force so clearly superior to his. CIA Director William Burns has said that none of us can take lightly the prospect that Putin might resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Whether to communicate this publicly is less important than that they (a) agree and (b) tell Putin directly (as happened I am told regarding chemical weapons in the conversations [U.S. National Security Adviser Jake] Sullivan and [his Russian counterpart Nikolai] Patrushev had last month., Dr. Kori Schake, who directs defense and foreign policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and who has served in significant Defense Department, NSC, and State Department posts advised, What the U.S. should threaten in advance, and actually do if the Russians are preparing to use nuclear or chemical weapons in Ukraine is to (a) make clear that doing so would trigger direct U.S. military retaliation against Russia, and that retaliation would be directed at the Russian leadership and any policy officials or military officers the transmit or carry out the order; (b) pursue those officials until all have been either killed or tried for war crimes; (c) share first privately with Ukraine, then NATO allies, and then publicly the intelligence about Russian preparations and plans; (d) interdictthat is, attackthe units involved to prevent the use.. Ken Dilanian is the intelligence and national security correspondent for NBC News, based in Washington. While any use of a nuclear weapon is unthinkable to most of the world, under current Russian military doctrine usually described in shorthand as escalate to deescalate Putin could choose a nuclear demonstration as a warning to halt further American military aid to the Ukrainians. If those tensions escalate to the point that the two world powers do engage in a nuclear war, based on these new simulations, it seems they won't only be assuring their own destruction, but that of the rest of the planet as well. Exactly the opposite.. But few of the leaders set to meet in Brussels on Thursday ever had to deal with those scenarios and many have never had to think about nuclear deterrence or the effects of the detonation of battlefield nuclear weapons, designed to be less powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima. IE 11 is not supported. The officials said there is continuing concern that Putin could choose this option if he believesRussia has beenbacked into a corner..