Another Scenario in the ‘Putin Goes Nuclear’ Analysis

In considering scenarios that could lead Russia to use nuclear weapons, Gideon Rachman leaves out a critical one that has become increasingly salient in the aftermath of Ukraine’s failed 2023 counteroffensive (“Russia’s nuclear threats are losing potency”, Opinion, June 4).

If Ukraine proves unable to reverse its declining prospects and the west makes the fateful decision to intervene directly in order to prevent Russia’s victory, the resulting confrontation would very likely trigger an escalatory spiral with the Kremlin.

Were Moscow to decide that it had too much on the line to back down, it would necessarily rely on its nuclear arsenal to counterbalance the west, given the inferiority of Russia’s conventional military capability compared to Nato’s.

Rachman’s proposed remedies to Russian nuclear usage — asking China and India to pressure Moscow into relenting, and threatening the Kremlin with massive military retaliation if it doesn’t — will prove insufficient, because recognition of these consequences will have already been baked into Vladimir Putin’s decision to go nuclear.