Russia’s military strength is somewhat small compared to the US, and given the flaws of its armed forces, nuclear weaponry has become the leading strategic focus for Russia.
Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads for strategic use, they can use them on long-range missiles but can also be mounted on short-range missiles. So, Russia doesn’t even require strategic bombers to deliver a nuclear strike.
So, what is Russia’s plan with nuclear weapons? Can they be employed if they are so destructive?
Ukraine conflict and the deployment of nuclear weapons
Ukraine has been at war since 2014 against pro-Russian troops. Now, the war with Russia increases the possibility of using short-range nuclear weapons.
Today, Ukraine has been reaching out to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), whose most influential member is the United States.
Russia vs NATO
Russia can’t afford to challenge NATO or attempt to continue with its provocations worldwide. A large-scale conflict has become a luxury for the Russian troops.
Currently, Russia is incapable to compete with NATO’s conventional weapons. The US and NATO allies could stop a Russian invasion of a NATO member state in the Baltic. However, the nuclear weapons of Russia could shift the equilibrium of power.
The Russian nuclear threat
Russia has over 6,000 nuclear weapons, and throughout the Cold War, long-range bombers and missiles were the major risks to humanity. But, Russian low-range nuclear weapons have become the most significant security threat in potential future wars.
The mixture of all these forces would enable Russia to wage war at a distance, so instead of entering Ukrainian territory, Russia could deploy its nuclear arsenal from within its borders.
Short-range Russian nuclear weapons
The greatest fear is that Russia employs one of these short-range, low-yield nuclear weapons to display its determination and prevent NATO to intrude with its plans. This would discourage NATO from moving further eastward and prove that Russia is powerful enough.
So, short-range nuclear weapons (less than 650 miles or 1046 kilometers) are the most important risk today. The explosion of a small nuclear weapon of almost 10 kilotons far from ground level could cause a nuclear exclusion zone and enough radiation to stop the advance of troops over certain passable roads, which would force NATO troops to use alternate routes and delay their advance into Russia in case of a war.
However, these nuclear weapons don’t pose a substantial risk compared to nuclear bombs because their yield is quite lower… and that’s exactly what makes their usage on the battlefield possible.
The US can’t stop these nuclear attacks
Suppose Russian leaders decide to use nuclear weapons. In that case, it could give them an advantage that the United States cannot overcome since most ballistic missiles are still very difficult to shoot down if there aren’t already multiple anti-missile systems in place. The nuclear warhead explosion in high the air could flood a large area with radiation.
Additionally, the United States doesn’t have a comparable inventory, and Russia could use them in desperate circumstances if they start losing the conventional war.
Nuclear short-range low yield weapons are the real threat today!
In the worst moments of the Cold War, Europe was the focus of an escalation of tensions confronting the United States and Russia, the countries with the biggest nuclear arsenals in the world.
An all-out war between the 2 countries appears unlikely because of the status quo since the Cold War: their nuclear arsenals would guarantee mutual destruction… but less decisive nuclear weapons seem a feasible option that won’t escalate an all-out nuclear conflict.
Featured image credit: Crews of the coastal missile system Bal by Ildus Gilazutdinov. Licensed under CC by 4.0