A Russian Nuclear Strike in Ukraine Would Cross a Point of No Return

A Russian Nuclear Strike in Ukraine Would Cross a Point of No Return
Two men walk near the Atomic Bomb Dome, the only building not rebuilt after the U.S. atomic bombing during WWII, in Hiroshima, Japan, July 15, 2021 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

After launching a major and successful counteroffensive in early September, Ukraine has momentum on its side in the war against Russia. With each Ukrainian victory, Russian forces are retreating and surrendering—faster, it seems, than new Russian troops can be mobilized and thrown into the front.

But while applauding Ukraine’s success is understandable, we are actually entering the most dangerous portion of the war. A great concern, present since the beginning of the war, is emerging with more urgency: Will Russia use a nuclear weapon to stop Ukraine’s armed forces in their tracks?

The logic, known as “escalate to deescalate,” is that by using a low-yield, “tactical” nuclear weapon as a demonstration of its willingness to cross the nuclear threshold, Russia would induce Kyiv to pursue cease-fire negotiations to avoid further escalation. Such a desperate measure, if successful, would enable Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid a humiliating defeat and even claim a form of victory, thereby protecting him from potential domestic threats to his grip on power.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.