Story by Ellie Youngs, News Editor
On September 21, Russian president Vladimir Putin called for a partial military mobilization that has resulted in nearly 200,000 people leaving Russia in efforts to avoid it. This alone has sparked outrage amongst Russian citizens and families, and even still, Putin is now threatening to employ nuclear weapons into his war strategy.
Ever since invading Ukraine in February, Putin has been clear to remind the rest of the world that Moscow has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. He has falsely claimed that NATO policymakers have been threatening to use “weapons of mass destruction,” and he also remarked that Russia has more modern weapons than those which NATO countries possess.
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without a doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people,” Putin said. “This is not a bluff.”
For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, top government leaders in Russia are making explicit nuclear threats. This has officials in Washington planning out scenarios in case Putin proves his threat not to be a bluff; however, senior American officials believe that the chances of Putin actually utilizing nuclear weapons is low. There would be little to no military benefits gained, and the international response to this could be detrimental to Russia.
Still, Putin’s words should not be taken lightly. Given his unpredictability throughout the past several months, as well as his series of losses and retreats in Ukraine, his arsenal of nuclear weapons can still be used to instill fear and respect for Russian power across the globe.
It seems as though Putin is grasping onto whatever power he can, and his efforts should not be ignored. While it may only be a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon used on the battlefield, the implications of it are still immense. If employed, this weapon would kill countless troops on site, and it would also expose a large number of civilians in neighboring areas to a risk of radiation. It would also cause a political upset as it would be the first atomic attack since August of 1945.
What will come next is unknown. Western officials, including President Biden are trying to figure out a way to de-escalate the situation. According to President Biden, who is utilizing lessons learned from the Cuban Missile Crisis, western powers need to avoid putting Putin in a corner and forcing him to act in extreme defense.