Verjetnost uporabe jedrskega orožja v Ukrajini naj bi se ta teden povečala nad 50%

Tako pravi upokojeni vojaški general Kevin Ryan, ki je služil kot ameriški obrambni ataše v Moskvi. Situacija v Ukrajini se postopoma ogreva do točke, ko bo ruska jedrska eskalacija vsled serije dogodkov v Ukrajini lahko postala samoumevna. K temu prispevajo dejanja, kot so (1) odobritev napotitev ameriških lovcev F-16 v Ukrajino, ki bodo zaradi uničenih ukrajinskih letališč svoje pohode morali opravljati iz Natovih baz v članicah Nata, (2) napovedovan začetek ukrajinske ofenzive na 1,000 kilometorv dolgi fronti, v kateri bodo sodelovali Natovi tanki in orožje iz držav Nata, (3) ukrajinski vpadi na ozemlje Rusije s trani neonacističnih skupin, ki so v času, ko niso revolucionarji in teroristi, člani redne ukrajinske vojske in ki uporabljajo vojaška vozila, ki so jih ZDA pred kratkim poslale v Ukrajino. Seveda ima Ukrajina pravico, da se brani pred okupatorjem in da ga poskuša pregnati iz zasedenih ozemelj z vsemi možnimi sredstvi, problem pa je, kako to percipira Rusija. Če bo rusko vodstvo presodilo, da lahko v tej ukrajinski ofenzivi izgubi in če oceni, da je s tem Rusija eksistenčno ogrožena, in to s strani članic Nata, lahko v skladu s svojo vojaško in jedrsko doktrino poseže tudi po taktičnem jedrskem orožju.

Stvari so šle tako daleč, da se bo, ko bodo zgodovinarji nekoč pojasnjevali to potencialno katastrofo, jedrska eskalacija lahko zdela kot logično nadaljevanje sosledja dogodkov. Tako kot se strel na Franca Ferdinanda v Sarajevu in posledični začetek prve svetovne vojne danes zdi logično nadaljevanje sosledja dogodkov.

Spodaj je diskusija različnih možnosti skozi zahodne oči.


On Monday, three days after the interview was recorded, a drama unfolded along the Russia-Ukraine border that illustrates how wartime developments can raise the chances of such an escalation—or, for that matter, the other kind of dreaded escalation, the kind that would draw NATO into the war without the war going nuclear. These changes in the probability of catastrophe are often small, and this week’s change is no exception. But they add up, and hardly anyone notices until they reach critical mass.

The drama involved dozens of well-armed soldiers who crossed into Russia from Ukraine, killed at least one Russian soldier, and then advanced seven miles before Russian forces killed some of them and pushed the rest back into Ukraine.

The soldiers who conducted the raid were of Russian ethnicity and said they were acting not in coordination with the Ukrainian military but rather in their capacity as Russian revolutionaries who aimed to overthrow Vladimir Putin. Various things rendered this claim of operational autonomy implausible, including the fact that (1) on days when they’re not trying to start a Russian revolution, these soldiers serve under the command of the Ukrainian military (among the “foreign legions,” since they hail from Russia); and (2) the dozen or so armored vehicles they used included models that the US had given to the Ukrainian military and hadn’t given to any self-described Russian revolutionaries.

This episode has at least three properties that, by however small a measure, could raise the chances of future escalation by Putin, including escalation to the nuclear level.

1. The raid could increase the Russian public’s backing for escalation broadly—partly because it makes Russians feel more threatened by Ukraine, but also because Putin can claim it supports the narrative he used to justify war in the first place.  

Putin said on the eve of the invasion that the de facto NATOization of Ukraine (via the provision of weapons, training, and other forms of military assistance from NATO members) posed a threat to Russia’s security. This week, for the first time in recorded history, NATO-issue military vehicles entered Russian territory carrying soldiers who then attacked Russians.

Putin also said on the eve of the invasion that military action was needed to cleanse Ukraine of its Nazi elements. Monday’s incursion featured a number of people who fit in with that theme, including Alexey Levkin, who founded an annual Nazi music festival, and Aleksandr Skachkov, who was once arrested for selling translations of the white nationalist manifesto penned by the perpetrator of the 2019 Christchurch massacre. The Russian Volunteer Corps, one of two groups that constituted the raiding party, holds that Russia should have an all-white citizenry and considers Ukraine admirable for its relative ethnic purity. (The group’s leader is pictured above, on the right.) 

2. Incursions like this satisfy Putin’s stated criteria for launching a nuclear strike.

Putin said in October that Russia’s national security doctrine permits the use of nuclear weapons to “protect its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of the Russian people.” That’s actually a loose rendering of Russian nuclear doctrine, which speaks of a threat “to the very existence of the state.” But Putin’s interpretation of the doctrine is the interpretation that matters.

This interpretation may be part of the reason the Biden administration says that US-supplied equipment shouldn’t be used in attacks on Russian soil. (This week’s events brought no explicit protestations from the Biden team. But there may have been a passive-aggressive reprimand in the administration’s leaking a story to the New York Times implicating Ukraine in a recent drone strike on the Kremlin and conveying concerns that all such incursions, including this week’s, could lead Russia to “blame US officials and retaliate by expanding the war beyond Ukraine.”)

3. Incursions like this could satisfy criteria for a nuclear strike that, though Putin has never articulated them, almost certainly apply. 

Though a true existential threat to Russia might well, in keeping with its nuclear doctrine, trigger a nuclear attack, there’s a different kind of existential threat that could also have that effect and is more likely to materialize in the near term: a threat to Putin’s regime. This week’s raiding party didn’t by itself come close to constituting such a threat (its stated ambitions notwithstanding). But if attacks like this create a sense among Russians that the regime isn’t keeping them secure, Putin’s hold on power could gradually weaken.

Another thing that could weaken his hold on power is a big setback in the war. If it starts looking like he has gotten tens of thousands of Russians killed without achieving his stated war aims—or, worse still, is losing Ukrainian territory Russia held before the war—then domestic rivals will be emboldened. Indeed, this week, shortly after the incursion, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, mockingly said Russia’s stated aim of “demilitarizing” Ukraine had backfired and alluded to the possibility of a future revolution.

That Putin considers big battlefield setbacks unacceptable was the premise of General Ryan’s disturbing assessment. He said in that Responsible Statecraft interview:

When Ukraine mounts its counter offensive, if they have significant success in taking back territory that Russia has occupied—for example, large parts of any of the four provinces that Russia has annexed, or Crimea itself—then the Russian military will be expected to escalate their operations to prevent that or to counter that. Putin will demand that. If the Russian military is not able to escalate or to prevent Ukraine from doing those things, Putin will have no other way of escalating the war militarily than through a nuclear weapon.

Most analysts, it should be noted, believe the chances of a nuclear strike are considerably less than 50 percent. But when you’re talking about nuclear war, chances much lower than that are still very disturbing—as is every development that pushes them up by even a little bit.

Vir: Robert Wright, Nonzero

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