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Nuclear War Debate Grows in Russia and the West

June 21, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—The June 13 article by Russian professor Sergey Karaganov which calls for Russia to launch a tactical nuclear strike against one or various European countries, and which was run in Russia in Global Affairs and reprinted on June 17 by RT and Asia Times, has unleashed a series of responses both within Russia and in the West. For example, Russia Matters, the publication of The Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, has published their latest “Russia Analytical Report, June 12-20, 2023,” noting in their “4 Ideas to Explore” item that a “debate has reemerged among some of Russia’s best-known foreign and defense policy pundits on whether Moscow should initiate use of nuclear weapons to dissuade the West from providing further support to Ukraine.”

President Joe Biden weighed in on the matter, telling a group of donors in California on June 19 that “I worry about Putin using tactical nuclear weapons. It’s real.”

Dmitri Trenin, a research professor at the Higher School of Economics and a lead research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, as well as a member of the Russian International Affairs Council, wrote in RT yesterday that “domestically, a public debate has started over the possibility of a first use of nuclear weapons against NATO in the context of the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine.” Trenin accurately reported that “Putin’s answer brought no surprises. In summary: nuclear weapons remain in the toolbox of Moscow’s strategy, and there is a doctrine that stipulates conditions for their use. Should the existence of the Russian state be threatened, they will be used. However, there is no need to resort to such instruments currently.”

Trenin added that

“the U.S. strategy vis-à-vis Russia in Ukraine has been that of pushing the envelope farther and farther, by upgrading step by step its military support for Ukraine and probing Russian reaction to each stage of escalation. So far, it seems for Washington, so good. Beyond a certain point, however, such practice may turn this calculated strategy into Russian roulette. The proposed arrival of the F‑16s and the potential delivery of longer-range missiles would bring the situation closer to that point. Hence, Putin’s confirmation that the nuclear option, while unnecessary at this stage, is not off the table. Indeed, no nuclear power would likely agree to be defeated by another without exercising the ultimate option.”

As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently explained, the F‑16s that the West plans to ship to Ukraine are capable of carrying B61 gravity nuclear bombs, and if they are deployed “a military-technical response will follow.” President Vladimir Putin said at the SPIEF plenary that if those F‑16s are flown in battle against Russia in Ukraine, and are based outside the country (for example in Poland or Romania), “we will have to think about how and where we can hit the resources that are used against us in the hostilities. There is a serious danger of NATO’s further involvement in this armed conflict.”

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