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Putin 'prepared to use nuke' against UK and Nato 'because he believes West would be too scared to respond'
23 January 2024, 08:33
Vladimir Putin could be prepared to use nuclear weapons in a conflict with Britain and Nato because it believes the US would not want to respond, experts fear.
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Russia believes that the West is so "risk averse" and fearful of casualties that Moscow could use WMDs to prevent itself losing a future war, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said.
Their failed bid to take over and absorb Ukraine has eroded confidence in its military, which it had previously claimed was second only to the US.
Instead, Putin has been forced to mobilise hundreds of thousands of men to the frontline, often poorly equipped and with bad morale, after a campaign they believed would be over within days became a protracted conflict that has turned into a stalemate.
As Western and Nato officials warn Europe must be ready for the possibility of conflict with Russia in the future - especially if it triumphs in Ukraine - an IISS report said: "Knowing that the West is casualty and risk averse, Russia may seek to use enough non-strategic nuclear weapons to inflict damage preventing its own defeat, knowing that the US would be unwilling to cross the nuclear threshold in retaliation, and may be willing to terminate the conflict early."
That means that Russia could use a nuclear weapon that's not designed to obliterate countries, but instead used on the battlefield against military units.
The irresponsibility of the Kremlin's rhetoric around nuclear weapons has been heavily criticised.
As the invasion of Ukraine was launched, Putin warned of "consequences that you have never faced in your history" if countries tried to stop him.
That warning went unheeded as the West ramped up military support for Kyiv, to Putin's humiliation.
But Russia has continued to use nuclear weapons to threaten Western nations indirectly.
It carried out exercises involving its nuclear forces last year and deployed the weapons to Belarus.
Dmitry Medvedev, the one-time president who rose to the post as part of a job swap with Putin, said earlier in January that the US and allies would risk a nuclear response if missile launch sites were hit by Ukraine.
"What does this mean? It means only one thing – they risk running into the action of paragraph 19 of the fundamentals of Russia's state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence," the usually bellicose deputy chairman of Russia's national security council said.
That doctrine says the country's president could consider using nuclear weapons if the Russian state is threatened by conventional weapons.
The IISS warned: "This... scenario implies that in a conflict, if Russia's conventional forces cannot hold back an attack from its national territory, it may use nuclear weapons on the battlefield to blunt its opponent's forces and demonstrate resolve."
Last week, a top Nato official warned the West should be braced for an-all out war with Russia within the next two decades.
Admiral Rob Bauer said that although NATO and member governments are readying themselves for conflict with Vladimir Putin's regime, civilians must realise that they also have a role to play.
He told reporters that civilians would have to be mobilised in large numbers if war broke out, and governments would have to prepare for how to manage that process.
Adml Bauer, the chairman of NATO's military committee, said: "We have to realise it's not a given that we are in peace. And that's why we [Nato forces] are preparing for a conflict with Russia.