Explained: Can Putin actually unleash nuclear weapons on Ukraine?


grave debate about how the West might react has been ignited by President Vladimir Putin’s warning to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine if Russian “territorial integrity” is threatened. 

Analysts, however, are not convinced that the Russian president is ready to use nuclear weapons for the first time since the US struck Japan in 1945.

What would a Russian nuclear attack look like?

As per analysts, Moscow would probably use one or more “tactical” nuclear bombs. 

In comparison to the 1.2 megatons of the heaviest US strategic warhead or the 58 megaton bomb Russia tested in 1961, the explosive strength of these weapons, which range from 0.3 kilotons to 100 kilotons, is quite tiny. 

Comparatively speaking, tactical nuclear weapons are made to fight and win full-scale battles, whereas strategic nuclear weapons are intended to have a limited effect on the battlefield. 

little and limited, however, are relative terms: Only 15 kilotons of nuclear energy were included in the deadly atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

What would Moscow target?

As per analysts, Russia would want to divide Ukraine’s Western backers and terrify it into submission to discussions if it used a tactical nuclear bomb on the nation. 

By detonating a nuclear bomb over water or high over Ukraine to create an electromagnetic pulse that would disable electronic equipment, Moscow could make a powerful statement and prevent serious casualties.

Putin might even choose to cause much more havoc and death by striking a Ukrainian military post or a major city like Kiev, which would likely result in many casualties and the possible assassination of the nation’s ruling elite.

Should the West respond with nukes?

The options are difficult, and the West hasn’t made it clear how it would react to a tactical nuclear strike. 

NATO and the United States do not want to come across as being unprepared for an implicit nuclear threat. 

However, they would also want to rule out the prospect that the conflict in Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, could spread and turn into a terrible global nuclear war. 

A nuclear reaction could be rejected by some NATO members, which would help Putin’s efforts to erode the alliance.

Give Ukraine the ability to attack Russia?

As per experts, it might be more beneficial to respond to a Russian nuclear assault in a more traditional military or diplomatic manner and to provide Ukraine with more potent weapons so that it can attack Russia. 

The US may also provide Ukraine with NATO aircraft, Patriot and THAAD anti-missile batteries, and ATACMS long-range missiles that Ukraine forces might employ to launch attacks inside Russia.

(with inputs from agencies)

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