July 8, 2015

What Will Be the Effect of Putin’s Nuclear Threats?

Nuclear threats by Moscow against NATO Allies and other countries in the Nordic-Baltic region are a central element in Russia’s policy of confrontation with the Western world. The West tends to perceive the confrontation on political, legal and economic grounds, while it is certainly also cultural, but it has—considering traditional Russian mentality—a prominent military dimension.

Nuclear threats by Moscow against NATO Allies and other countries in the Nordic-Baltic region are a central element in Russia’s policy of confrontation with the Western world. The West tends to perceive the confrontation on political, legal and economic grounds, while it is certainly also cultural, but it has—considering traditional Russian mentality—a prominent military dimension.

Despite the Kremlin’s aggressiveness and irresponsibility, it would be rather difficult to assume that President Vladimir Putin is, in fact, ready to use nuclear weapons first, potentially leading to a classic MAD scenario even if Russia is not existentially threatened. Therefore, Russian nuclear threats are rather political messages, signalling to the West that Moscow is ready to continue the escalation of the confrontation and that it will not reverse its political course in general, particularly vis-ā-vis Ukraine.
These threats also serve the purpose to test Western resolve and to intimidate and blackmail the Allies in order to dilute NATO’s consensus and make at least some Western leaders doubt whether it is worth fighting a war with a nuclear-capable Russia to defend, for instance, the Baltic States or Poland. Last but not least, Russian nuclear threats are intended to slow the willingness of Allies to beef up defence of the Baltic States and Poland with significant troops and materiel and also to prevent Finland and Sweden from joining the Alliance.
Read more: PISM

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