Russia’s annexation puts world ‘two or three steps away’ from nuclear war

LONDON – President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of the annexation of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine signals the start of a new and highly dangerous phase in the seven-month-old war, which Western officials and analysts fear could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. For the first time in 77 years.

Putin has previously threatened to resort to nuclear weapons if Russia’s goals in Ukraine continue to be thwarted. The merger brings the use of nuclear weapons one step closer, potentially justifying Putin on the grounds that “the territorial integrity of our country is threatened,” as he put it in a speech last week.

He threatened again on Friday An ominous comment The US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki set a “paradigm” for the use of nuclear weapons, he cited the US invasion of Iraq as an example of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

US and Western officials say they still don’t think Putin will follow through on his threats. More likely, they say, he is hoping to dissuade the West from providing more sophisticated military aid to Ukraine while the deployment of an additional 300,000 troops allows Russia to scale back or at least halt its military thrusts on the battlefield.

Three maps illustrating Russia’s annexation and loss of Ukraine

But the threats have strengthened Western resolve to continue sending arms to Ukraine, and Ukrainian troops are advancing into Russian-occupied territory. On Saturday, the Ukrainian army took control of the eastern city Lemon Saturday in an area clearly annexed by Russia.

The collapse of another Russian front line was greeted by calls for nuclear strikes by some military bloggers and political figures in Russia, including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a close ally of Putin. “More stringent measures should be taken until the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov wrote in a comment on his Telegram channel.

A day after the annexation claim, Russian troops withdrew from Liman

Putin said that in all four regions he is annexing – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia – Russia only controls part of the territory.

Now that the areas where the war is being fought are known as Moscow Russia, it is possible that the events leading to the first use of nuclear weapons after the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Japan.

“This is a low-probability event, but it is the most serious case of nuclear brinkmanship since the end of the Cold War in the 1980s,” said Franz-Stefan Gaddy, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “This is a very dangerous situation and Western policymakers need to take it seriously.”

US and European officials say they are taking the threats seriously. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that if Russia were to use nuclear weapons, it would have “catastrophic consequences.” He declined to specify what they would be but said the exact results had been communicated privately to Russian officials “at a very high level”.

“They know very well what they will face if they go down that dark road,” he said.

The US has sent private warnings to Russia against using nuclear weapons

European officials say the threats have strengthened their resolve to support Ukraine.

“No one knows what Putin will decide,” said an EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue. “But he is completely in a corner, he is mad … and there is no way for him. The only way for him is total victory or total defeat and we are working towards the latter. We need Ukraine to win and so we need Ukraine to win by helping Ukraine win. Working to avoid a worse situation.”

The goal is to give Ukraine the military support it needs to push Russia out of Ukraine’s territory, while putting political pressure on Russia to agree to a cease-fire and withdrawal, the official said.

And the pressure is working, “slowly,” the official said, to spread awareness in Russia and internationally that the attack was a mistake. India sided with Russia in the early part of the war. He has expressed concern over Putin’s talk of nuclear war And China, ostensibly Russia’s most important ally, has signaled its growing disquiet over Putin’s continued rise.

But the annexation and mobilization of hundreds of thousands of additional troops also served as a reminder that Western strategy is not yet doing enough to convince Putin that he cannot win, said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. For international peace that was in Moscow until earlier this year.

The West had hoped that the Ukrainian success would force Putin to back down, but instead they are doubling down. “We see time and time again that Vladimir Putin sees this as a big existential war, and if he loses on the battlefield, he is ready to give up,” Gabuev said.

“At the same time I don’t think the West will back down, so it’s a very tough challenge now. We are two or three steps away” Russia is failing to achieve its goals and resorting to what was once unthinkable.

In those steps to secure its position, Russia pushed hundreds of thousands more onto the battlefield; increasing attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure in Ukraine; And perhaps even launching covert attacks on Western infrastructure.

Although the United States and its European allies have avoided making direct accusations, some suspect Russia is behind it. Sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea, EU official said.

“I don’t think anyone doubts it. This is the Kremlin’s signature,” he said. “It’s a signal, ‘Look what’s coming, look what we can do.’ “

Nuclear weapons would be used only after mobilization, sabotage and other measures failed to turn the tide, and it was unclear what Putin would achieve by using them, Gaddy said.

Despite some wild predictions on the Russian news that the Kremlin would attack a Western capital, London appears to be a favorable target, but it is more likely that Moscow will try to use one of its smaller, tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield. Try to gain leverage over the Ukrainian military, Gaddy said.

The smallest nuclear weapon in the Russian arsenal produces an explosion of about 1 kiloton, one-fifteenth the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, causing massive destruction but over a much more limited area.

Since the war was fought on a vast, 1,500-mile front, the army was spread too thin because there could not be a clear target whose destruction would change the course of the war. To make the difference, Russia would have to use multiple nukes or alternatively attack a major population center like Kyiv, either of which would lead to massive escalation, trigger almost certain Western retaliation and make Russia a loser, even with its allies, Gadi said.

“From a purely military perspective, nuclear weapons will not solve any of Vladimir Putin’s military problems,” he said. “A single attack will not be enough to change the operational picture and it will not threaten Ukraine to surrender. It will do the opposite, it will double Western support and I think the US response.

That is why many believe that Putin will not follow through on his threats. “While Putin is dangerous, he is not suicidal, and neither are the people around him,” said Ben Hodges, former commander of US Army Europe.

Pentagon officials have said they have not seen any actions by Russia that would cause the United States to adjust its nuclear posture.

Robin Dixon contributed to this report from Riga, Latvia

The War in Ukraine: What You Need to Know

Latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the order on Friday Added four occupied territories of Ukraine, after holding a referendum that was widely condemned as illegal. follow us Live updates here.

Response: The Biden administration on Friday a A new round of sanctions against Russia, in response to the annexation, targeted government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials, and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said on Friday that Ukraine is Applying for “quick ascension” to NATOIn clear reply to attachments.

In Russia: Putin announced military mobilization To call the maximum on September 21 300,000 reserve In a dramatic attempt to roll back the odds in his war on Ukraine. The announcement was made an exit of More than 180,000 peoplemostly who were subject to male serviceAnd Renewed demonstrations and other acts of disobedience against the war.

Fight: Mounted in Ukraine A successful counterattack That Forced a large Russian retreat into the northeastern Kharkiv region In early September, the army fled the towns and villages it had occupied since the early days of the war and A large amount of military equipment was released.

Photo: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the start of the war – Here are some of their most powerful functions.

How you can help: Here are ways they can in the US Support the Ukrainian people Also What people around the world are donating.

Read our full coverage Russia-Ukraine War. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel For updates and exclusive videos.

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