If Putin goes nuclear first – don’t push the button, too
If Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin makes good on his threats to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, how should the West respond?
The U.S. Admiral who served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO had this to say: “One thing we should not contemplate is responding in kind, with NATO nuclear capability. Although the Alliance has such means and recently conducted its annual exercises demonstrating this ability, avoiding further nuclear escalation must be avoided at all costs.”
Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) says that Putin using a tactical nuclear weapon or a radioactive “dirty bomb” is a real possibility.
He wrote in Time this week, “A few days ago, in a strange move, the Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, reached out to several NATO counterparts, including the U.S., United Kingdom, and France. He laid out a preposterous lie, purporting to have evidence that the Ukrainians were preparing to use a ‘dirty bomb’ soon. These ‘dirty bombs’’ are simply large explosives combined with radioactive material—they scatter the radioactivity around a large area, although the lethal effects are actually relatively small. The NATO ministers correctly pushed back strongly, including issuing a joint statement denying such a scheme existed.”
Admiral Stadvridis puts forward a list of potential responses by the West which carefully avoids pitting NATO against Russian forces directly.
Here are his suggestions:
- Publicize and condemn the Russian use of nuclear weapons, the first use since the Second World War
- Provide incontrovertible evidence that the radiation is the result of Russian activity
- Demand Russian expulsion from the U.N. Security Council, going through the General Assembly to overcome a presumed Russian veto in the U.N. Security Council.
- Push China, India, and other major “swing voter” nations to condemn Putin and cut off trade with Russia
- Confiscate all Russian financial assets in western hands, around $300 billion, for the express use of reconstructing Ukraine
- Deliver MIG-29 Soviet era fighter aircraft (currently in the hands of the Poles) to the Ukrainians immediately, as their pilots already fly them very capably. In this scenario, the U.S. would immediately backfill with F-16s to Warsaw
- Consider giving the Ukrainians U.S. F-16 fighter aircraft, particularly some of the early models. These are relatively simple to fly, very lethal in both air-to-air scenarios and in air-to-ground attacks. The U.S. would train a cadre of Ukrainian pilots, probably taking them to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany
- Increase the supply of advanced surface to air defensive missile systems, probably older Hawk systems but also the modern Patriot (wide area, relatively easy to train to operate) and Iron Dome (developed jointly with Israel, excellent point defense systems to be used around big population centers and critical infrastructure)
- Strongly consider putting up a NATO “no fly” zone in support of the Ukrainian air forces, using NATO jets operating out of Polish and German bases
- Strongly consider a response is the world of cyber, particularly going after Russian military capabilities aggressively.
- Directly and overtly target the Russian Black Sea fleet and provide Ukraine with the intelligence and long-range cruise missiles to sink a significant number of high value warships
While most of these responses are in the diplomatic and economic realm, some of the military elements are risky. For example, enforcing a “no-fly” zone using NATO jets over Ukraine could quickly end up with Americans shooting at Russians, and Russians shooting back. Escalation would soon follow.
Experts have been warning the world is on the brink – and any miscalculation could lead to a global nuclear holocaust.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said so himself. Putin was “not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons,” Biden said this month. “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
- Read “What the West Should Do If Putin Uses a Nuclear Weapon” by James Stavridis, published on October 26, 2022 by Time.com
(Cover: Gran Canaria Airport Spain OCTOBER, 21, 2021 Distinctive rotating radar dome, rotodome, above the fuselage of a spy plane. Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) of NATO. Via Shutterstock.)