Staunton, March 5 – In contrast to his Soviet predecessors, Vladimir Putin “really believes in the possibility of a limited nuclear strike on US territory” and calculates that he can use this as blackmail to achieve his ends more effectively than he could be suggesting he will blow up the entire world, Moscow commentator Aleksandr Skobov says.
Skobov, who acknowledges at the outset that he is not a military specialist, nevertheless offers seven “theses” about Moscow’s evolution in thinking about the use of nuclear weapons to reach this disturbing conclusion and why Putin thinks he can win out by threatening such a scenario (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A9CE2349A89C).
First, he points out that “the entire nuclear strategy of the Kremlin is subordinated exclusively to the task of opposing the US” which is “considered by the Putin clique as a blood enemy with whom a mortal conflict is inevitable.” The Kremlin leader believes that this fight will come to a climax in the mid-2020s over the division of global resources.
Second, Skobov continues, “both sides have long possessed nuclear arsenals guaranteeing complete mutual destruction without victors or vanquished. A war for complete destruction of the opponent will inevitably be transformed into one of complete mutual destruction” rather than of victory on the part of the country that decided to launch first.
Third, “not one of the sides possesses the possibility of launching a preventive and disarming strike: the means capable of instantly destroying the nuclear arsenal of the opponent haven’t been created and will not be in the near future.” Moves to block one side from having that capacity would be viewed by the other as a move toward war.
Fourth, Skobov argues, “not one of the sides possesses an ABM system capable of stopping a massive nuclear attack, and that situation will continue as long as an ABM system will be more expensive than the means needed to defeat it.” Each side can “neutralize only a so-called ‘limited nuclear strike’ on its territory.”
Fifth, “from Soviet times onward, the sides have developed scenarios of so-called ‘limited nuclear war,’ which would not necessarily grow into a total one. These ideas gave the sides the hope if not for victory in a nuclear war than at least for the achievement of certain practical goals.
“However,” Skobov says, “these scenarios presupposed only the exchange of nuclear strikes on the territory of third countries or in the ocean. A limited nuclear strike on the territory of one of the nuclear superpowers was excluded” by such planners.
Sixth, Putin’s innovation involves “blackmailing the US with the possibility of launching a limited nuclear strike on American territory.” That was what the weapons he talked about in his speech to the Federal Assembly was about. “Such blackmail can be extremely effective because it is easier to believe in the reality of such threats than in the reality of a threat ‘to destroy the whole world.’”
And therefore seventh, Moscow has been thinking about developing the means of a limited nuclear strike against US territory “seriously and for a long time. Putin really believes in the possibility of a limited nuclear war and is preparing for it. He seriously considers that a limited nuclear strike on US territory will completely demoralize his opponent and force its capitulation.”
The Kremlin leader, the Moscow analyst says, “is counting on his chief competitive advance: the low value of human life in his ‘system of coordinates.’”