Sunday, December 14, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Is Moscow Setting the Stage for Using Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 14 – One of the most accurate leading indicators of what Moscow is planning to do in Ukraine are the charges it makes that the West is about to do the same thing there. That pattern, well-established over the last year, makes the latest such suggestion – that the US supposedly plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine – especially disturbing.


            In the course of a 4600-word interview with Russkaya Vesna, Mikhail Delyagin, a Moscow commentator who has criticized Vladimir Putin in the past but now says he is completely in line with the Kremlin leader, lays out the following scenario within a broadly conspiratorial vision of what the West is about (


            According to Delyagin’s version of reality, the United States needs yet another provocation after the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner in order to split Europe and Russia apart and thus weaken both.  And while he says that he hopes what he has heard is “a fake” and “enemy propaganda,” he suggests the following scenario to achieve that is now in train.


            Delyagin says that the Ukrainian army will begin a new wave of attacks against Russian forces in southeastern Ukraine, and “in the zone of the attack will explode a tactical nuclear shell.”  After that, he says, the media controlled by the West and liberals in Moscow will say that “this cursed Russia has used nuclear weapons.”


            But Russia won’t have done so, he continues. None of its military commanders is capable of doing so “in principle, even theoretically,” although for Americans, this is completely normal” because they are the only ones to have used nuclear weapons in the past and doing so again does not present a problem.


            Where might the nuclear fuel for such a shell come from? Delyagin suggests that he has information that in the Estonian port of Paldiski, there is a large stockpile of “radioactive trash,” and that the Americans might use something from that for a shell and thus add to the confusion such an attack would produce.


            Such a tactical nuclear device or dirty bomb might be delivered by a cruise missile or some other way, Delyagin continues, because a cruise missile could fly below the radar screens of Russian forces and thus the source of the attack could be concealed as its authors would certainly want it to be.


            If such an attack happened, the Moscow commentator continues, “all the liberal intelligentsia of the Russian Federation would begin in one voice to apologise before the West for its cursed criminal regime.”  And the Western-controlled media would whip this up both in Russia and around the world.


            For those in such media and their backers, “reality does not interest anyone,” he argues. “They have thought up the myth that Russia is guilty in everything,” and they will work accordingly, no matter what the facts are.


            Delyagin says that such a Western nuclear “provocation” is likely to happen before Christmas not only because US President Barack Obama in his currently weakened position need to do something to change the agenda but also because it would be completely consistent with what the West has done up to now.


            In fact, what Delyagin is suggesting and the conspiratorial view of events in Ukraine he is offering reflects not what the West has done or may do but rather what Moscow has done and might do.  One hopes that his words are the limit of this latest Russian provocation, and there is some reason to hope that they are.


            Delyagin’s remarks help the Kremlin in two ways. On the one hand, they may intimidate some Ukrainians into seeking an agreement with Moscow or alternatively lead others to take more radical positions against Moscow, positions whose very radicalism may cost Kyiv some of the support it now has in Western capitals.


            And on the other, his words will have an impact on Western capitals, leading ever more officials to argue that a solution to “the Ukrainian problem,” even one that sacrifices Ukrainian rights and Western principles, must be found and found quickly lest its absence trigger the possible use of nuclear weapons.


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