As Russia becomes entangled in the battlefields of Ukraine, the once unthinkable possibility of using nuclear weapons is growing, as President Vladimir Putin’s chances of victory are narrowed. Tactical nuclear weapons have not been part of strategic thinking since the end of the Cold War in 1991. What are these weapons and what is their significance?
What are they?
Tactical nuclear warheads were created to give commanders more flexibility on the battlefield. In the mid-1950s, during the construction and testing of more powerful thermal bombs, planners believed that smaller weapons with shorter range would be more useful in “tactical” or military situations.
Modern explosive devices have variable “dial-up” capabilities, which means that a pilot can specify his explosive power, and a tactical weapon would range from a fraction of a kilogram to 50 kt in strength. To realize the magnitude, the weapon that destroyed Hiroshima was about 15kt. One kilotonnet is equivalent to a thousand tonnes of TNT, a high explosive.
Tactical weapons were to be used against armies, ships, battlefields, airports, and so on. During the Cold War, they were integrated into all stages of the military program, both by NATO and its communist equivalent, the Warsaw Pact.
The Czechoslovak army alone planned to use 131 nuclear weapons against NATO targets as part of its first attack. The other Warsaw Pact and NATO countries had their own plans for nuclear use.
All such exchanges would have made much of Central Europe immediately uninhabitable, with concerns that tactical nuclear use would soon escalate into strategic nuclear use, as most of the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Britain would all be destroyed in space. in the afternoon.
Why should Russia use them?
Since the stakes are so high, why should anyone take that risk?
Russia has fared poorly in this war, the myth of its crumbling new military force, the country’s international respect at the bottom.
Inefficient, incompetent and clumsily cruel, the Russian military has yet another opportunity to reverse its disasters on the battlefield as a new wave of reinforcements withdrawn from abroad begins to emerge.
If Putin can not get out of this war with something that looks like a victory or there is an occasion where Russian troops are generally seen on the way, then the chances of Russia’s use of nuclear energy to strengthen its position as an empire will increase.
All tactical nuclear weapons are “strategic”
Most of the calculations of how the United States and Russia would respond to the use of nuclear weapons originated in the Cold War and the delicate “terrorist balance” that kept the world safe but feared. The use of nuclear weapons was a taboo that had not been broken since the Nagasaki bombing in the final days of World War II. In the ensuing Cold War, the seamless integration of nuclear weapons at all stages of military warfare, and their use by both sides, made use of only one weapon to ignite a global nuclear conflict in which the destruction of all was “pray for security.” .
One of the intentions of nuclear weapons was to deter each other from the possibility of large-scale invasions of Europe, the epicenter of the post-World War II Cold War. NATO and Warsaw Pact forces were on high alert in the event of a war. This did not prevent the Warsaw Pact from revolting within its own sphere of influence, in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Nevertheless, there were no major wars between the two blocs and unrest was maintained.
But with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact at the end of the Cold War, NATO expanded eastward to absorb most of the former Warsaw Pact countries. The implementation of significant agreements on the reduction of nuclear weapons reduced the nuclear reserves of the United States and Russia. Both now have only a fraction of their nuclear weapons at their disposal once.
Ideas and theories about the deterrent power of nuclear power declined as the threat of Armageddon diminished. Financial defense funds were directed at the difficult problems of occupation and counter-insurgency and the so-called “global war on terror”.
Theories are useful, as are detailed plans, but in the worst nuclear crisis, when in 1962, when the United States faced Soviet nuclear weapons right off its coast in Cuba, all these plans were abandoned, as they all led to one – global destruction. Instead, in this game of nuclear poker with the whole planet at stake, intense negotiations, a civil backlash, last-minute private insurance and a bluff between the two superpowers. These talks ignored military thinking and focused instead on the power between US President John F Kennedy and Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and their forces.
But in 2022, there are two very different people in power, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The questions are simple: Would Putin violate the nuclear ban by using these weapons in anger for the first time in 77 years? And if so, how would President Biden react?
So if Russia blew up just one nuclear weapon, for example over military targets, would the United States risk climbing the ladder by retaliating in the same currency, where global destruction awaits at the top level? President Biden recently signed a memorandum authorizing the use of US nuclear weapons in retaliation for a chemical or nuclear attack. Ukraine, however, is not a member of NATO, so Biden would take revenge in the same currency to protect Ukraine, while at the same time risking destroying a country that has already been destroyed by war. One of the irony of the nuclear weapons, which the Ukrainian people have not lost, is that not only did they deter Russia from invading Ukraine, but the potential use of nuclear weapons has in fact deterred NATO from coming to Ukraine’s aid.
Russia has increased its nuclear preparedness position, a cause for concern but not an unusual one during wartime. However, Russia has previously referred to the use of nuclear weapons. In 2015, it threatened to turn its attention to Denmark, of all countries, if it joined NATO’s missile defense shield.
As the war in Ukraine progresses so poorly, the scenario that President Putin could claim to be successful or successful for Russia is rapidly diminishing and Putin’s political performance is now increasingly tied to the outcome of the conflict.
Weak leaders – with a strong sense of survival, their armies failing and the respect of the country at the bottom – may well be tempted to remind the world that even if they did not win these conflicts no one would win the next and that Russia could be down but is not outside.