Will nuclear weapons be used in Ukraine?
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared on Tuesday that the large-scale military operation against eastern Ukraine marked the beginning of a "new phase" in the war. The Russian forces are stepping up their attacks, the situation in the embattled port city of Mariupol is dramatic. Commentators debate anxiously over whether this new stage could involve nuclear weapons.
Is Putin prepared to use nuclear weapons?
NV columnist Ivan Yakovina does not rule out the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons:
“I believe that Putin is weighing up right now whether to actually deploy nuclear weapons to put an end to the war once and for all. On the one hand, it could potentially help him, although I am not so sure about that, but on the other, it would be a death sentence for him and all those around him. Because even China would do everything in its power to get rid of a regime that is prepared to resort to using nuclear weapons.”
Balance of terror no longer effective
In a guest article in La Repubblica, journalist and former Venezuelan trade minister Moisés Naím wonders whether Putin's approach is tactical:
“Is Vladimir Putin a nihilistic sociopath for whom life has no value and who would be willing to use nuclear weapons against his enemies? Or is he perhaps a skilled negotiator who is using the nuclear threat to extract concessions from his opponents but ultimately will only allow the use of conventional weapons? ... For decades, the so-called 'balance of terror' has served to dissuade world leaders from using nuclear weapons. ... There would have been no winners. But now things seem to have changed.”
Pressure on the West is mounting
Putin is using the threat of nuclear weapons to keep the West out of the war, says Népszava:
“If Russia were to try to defeat Ukraine with a nuclear weapon, Putin would be forever associated with this heinous crime. The Kremlin nevertheless continues to leave this possibility hanging in the air so as to keep Ukraine's neighbours and Western supporters - especially the US - out of the war. So far, this strategy seems to be working, but the evidence of the massacre in Bucha is upping the pressure on Western politicians to challenge Moscow in a more concrete and threatening way.”
The prospect of World War Three
Commenting in Revista 22, political scientist Valentin Naumescu fears that the war will now expand drastically:
“I would not rule out a country on Nato's eastern flank now being drawn into the war, and Russia then waging war with the entire Nato alliance after triggering Article 5 [of the Nato Treaty]. There are two things we know for sure: that Putin's war will drag on, and that the Russian Third Reich will be the loser in the long run. What we don't know is how far away that moment is and how great the destruction and cost of a confrontation in Europe will be, particularly if Putin, in an act of final desperation, starts a third world war.”