The World Today for March 21, 2022

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An Angry Man

RUSSIA

Recently, Putin declared that any country that interfered in Russia’s special operations in Ukraine would face “consequences greater than any you have faced in history,” raising the specter of mutually assured destruction, as the Atlantic magazine recounted.

Is Vladimir Putin’s threat of a nuclear strike only bluster? Or is the Russian president capable of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe or the world? The world faces a potential nuclear standoff that hasn’t been seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the New York Times said.

Many echo that view these days.

“The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, according to Reuters.

Some believe the West should be very afraid, especially if Russia’s invasion continues to falter. More than 7,000 troops have perished in the Ukraine war that started on Feb. 24, the Times of India noted. That’s more than the US military lost for 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nuclear weapons might be the only way for the Russian army to conquer their foes.

Setbacks on the battlefield appear to have influenced Putin to put his nuclear forces on alert last month, explained Bloomberg. As his conventional forces run out of steam, he’ll be under pressure to show that Russia and his administration have options for continuing the fight in the face of failure. Putin already uses the nuclear option to bully neighbors and keep NATO on alert, the Jerusalem Post wrote.

“I find it hard to imagine Putin accepting a complete military defeat without him trying to use nuclear weapons first,” said Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, in an interview with the Washington Post. “I think he sees limited nuclear use as more attractive than accepting defeat.”

Russia would likely use so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons over short distances. As the BBC wrote, these tactical weapons might have the explosive power of one kiloton of TNT. In comparison, the explosive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 15 kilotons of TNT.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, where one of the worst nuclear accidents in history occurred at Chernobyl, experts have sounded alarms about Russian attacks that might damage operating nuclear power plants, causing environmental disasters, Al Jazeera reported.

In Rome, Pope Francis used apocalyptic language to describe the tenor of the world at the moment. “Our imagination appears increasingly concentrated on the representation of a final catastrophe that will extinguish us,” the pontiff said.

That’s one way to describe Putin’s strategy so far.

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