Concerns Russia’s Response To Ukrainian Victories May Trigger Spiral Toward Use Of Nuclear Weapons – OpEd


Ukrainians have been thrilled by the victories of the Ukrainian army over the Russian invaders, but Moscow’s most likely response given the Kremlin’s desire to avoid mobilization could push the conflict into a dangerous new phase, one in which the Russian use of nuclear weapons becomes practically inevitable, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

Its army having lost in the field and its ability to raise more troops limited by fears of the Russian reaction to any mobilization, he says, Moscow is likely to limit new ground attacks and the losses they’d entail but instead seek to inflict maximum pain on Ukrainian civilian targets from the air (

Russia could carry out such attacks with minimum risk to its own armed forces, but such attacks on cities would dramatically escalate the number of Ukrainian casualties. That in turn would put new pressure on the West to provide Ukraine with more and more advanced weaponry that Kyiv could use to shoot down Russian planes or even expand attacks on Russian territory.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukrainian forces, last month indicated that even if Ukraine recovers all of the occupied territory and forces Russia’s Black Sea fleet to relocate, the threat from Russia will remain, raising the possibility that the elimination of that threat will require moves against targets on Russian territory (

Because such a course of events will make both Russian mobilization and Moscow’s use of nuclear weapons “practically inevitable,” the London-based analyst says, the West will try to prevent Ukraine from attacking targets on Russian territory. But if it supplies Kyiv with advanced weapons, it may find it difficult to do that.

According to Pastukhov, “we are still at a very early stage of the escalation” of the war in Ukraine “and that in the spring if not sooner, new upheavals await us. These can be avoided only by breaking the sequence described above, an extremely difficult task and one that most likely will require regime change in either Moscow or Kyiv.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

One thought on “Concerns Russia’s Response To Ukrainian Victories May Trigger Spiral Toward Use Of Nuclear Weapons – OpEd

  • September 18, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    Paul Goble is an eminent mind when it comes to Eurasian affairs and is a leading authority when it comes to offering Western perspectives on it. Still it perplexes me why he thinks that the Russian momentary setbacks in Ukraine would escalate to a resort with nuclear weapons though of the tactical variety. It would help if one recalls in this context that towards the Soviet’s Afghanistan endgame it simply quitted that theatre losing therein without any resort to a nuclear response despite the West arming the Afghan Mujahideens with Stinger missiles, an advance arm then that had much nuisansical value and embarassment to the Soviets. So, I believe no the Russians will not respond with nukes merely because of the current setbacks. They have their own wisely based redlines in these regards but they may reevaluate their options if the Ukrainians carry the conflict into Crimea or further into Russian territories though !


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