A dangerous game

Image: Ilya Perelude


There is no chance of Russia sitting idly by and letting the United States directly attack any target within its borders.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski revealed in his latest interview with The Guardian that “the Americans told the Russians that if they explode a nuclear bomb, even if it doesn't kill anyone, we will hit all their targets [positions] in Ukraine with conventional weapons, we will destroy them all. I think this is a credible threat.” If this is true, and there is no reason to suspect that he simply made this up, then the US is playing a dangerous game of nuclear chicken with Russia.

How do I explain in this analysis about why Russia is currently conducting tactical nuclear weapons exercises, which is deterrence of a conventional military intervention of NATO in Ukraine, thereby seeking to signal that it will be able to resort to these weapons if these forces cross the Dnieper. From the Russian perspective, the indicated strength of 100.000 men, which NATO is preparing to invade Ukraine if its “red lines” are crossed, could pose a threat to its territorial integrity if they attack its newly unified regions.

As long as they remain on the western bank of the Dnieper, there would be no reason for Russian containment through tactical nuclear weapons, but these could realistically be used if they cross the river and actually appear to approach the country's new borders. In this scenario, Russia would have reasons to launch them at the invading forces as a last resort, in self-defense, to preventively neutralize this threat, in accordance with its nuclear doctrine.

Having brought the reader up to speed with the context in which Radek Sikorski shared the planned US response to the potential explosion of nuclear bombs in Ukraine, it may now be easier to understand why this amounts to a dangerous game of nuclear chicken. Essentially, the US wants Russia to relinquish its intention to use tactical nuclear weapons if the NATO invasion force, reportedly 100.000 strong, crosses the Dnieper River, which could happen if Russia achieves a military breakthrough.

If this sequence of events unfolds – the front lines collapse, NATO intervenes conventionally in Ukraine, its invasion force, reportedly 100.000 strong, crosses the Dnieper, Russia drops tactical nuclear bombs on them, and then the US attacks all its forces in the newly unified regions – then World War III will break out. There is no chance of Russia sitting idly by and letting the United States directly attack any target within its borders. It will slash aggressively or launch a nuclear first strike.

The only way to avoid this worst-case scenario is for NATO to prevent its invasion plans under any circumstances, including a potential Russian military advance. However, if they still advance they should keep their forces on the western side of the Dnieper and, ideally, rely on a neutral mediator like the India to convey to Russia that they do not intend to cross it, even if they approach it. Anything less is a dangerous game of nuclear chicken that could literally bring about the apocalypse.

*Andrew Korybko holds a master's degree in International Relations from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Book author Hybrid Wars: From Color Revolutions to Coups (popular expression). [https://amzn.to/46lAD1d]

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

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