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Russian Options in Ukraine: Are Nuclear Weapons Under Consideration?
Geopolitical Futures ^ | 09/20/2022 | George Friedman

Posted on 09/22/2022 9:36:35 PM PDT by SeekAndFind

Last week, I discussed the nature of tactical nuclear weapons. They are built for tactical effect, not strategic effect. Strategic nuclear weapons, such as the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, can devastate a large area, with both the blast and the nuclear fallout. The blast area would be devastated, and the fallout would increase the lethality and carry it a significant distance downwind. However, it must be remembered that regardless of casualties, neither city was completely abandoned, and both were populated and functioning at a reasonable level about a year after the bombs were detonated. The power of tactical nuclear weapons (depending on the type) is less than 1 percent of the Hiroshima blast, and as important, they yield little nuclear fallout.

Tactical nuclear weapons can determine the outcome of a battle but not a war, and would not make the land unlivable. Therefore, Russia’s other nuclear option is strategic: to destroy Ukrainian cities with a Hiroshima-type weapon. This option has two weaknesses. The winds in Ukraine are variable and in eastern Ukraine, for example, blow to the northeast. A strategic nuclear detonation would send fallout blowing into Russia and in this example toward Voronezh, a strategic Russian city. Any use of a strategic nuclear weapon would likely affect Russian territory.

A second risk, however unlikely, concerns the Western response. The United States, the United Kingdom and France all possess strategic nuclear weapons. Any of them might take a Russian strike on Ukraine as a potential threat to themselves, triggering an exchange. This may be farfetched and none of the three might imagine it, but in a command center, fears are magnified. Given the limited value of tactical nukes and the potential disaster of strategic nukes, Russian nuclear threats are excellent psychological warfare (unless a Russian enemy takes the threat seriously) but cannot solve Russia’s military problem.

Its problem consists of four parts.

The first is that the Russians are deployed in Ukraine as they began the war, on salients vulnerable to flank attacks, which happened. A retreat into more defensible formations would make sense but would also have serious political consequences, as it would indicate another retreat after the one in the north earlier in the war.

A second problem appears to be insufficient, poorly trained and unmotivated forces with which to mount a counterattack sufficient to force a major Ukrainian retreat.

A third problem is the long-standing Russian/Soviet problem: logistics. In order to mount a counterattack, the Russians must have not only initial supplies but also massive additional supplies arriving reliably where they are needed.

This leads to their fourth problem. U.S. satellites are providing constant, accurate intelligence on all forces, including logistical movements. In addition, U.S. artillery of various sorts is capable of cutting the Russian line of supply, leaving an offensive paralyzed. And finally, Ukrainian forces are sufficiently dispersed that a last-ditch tactical nuclear strike would likely impact the Russian offensive.

It would seem that Russia has been forced into a permanent defensive posture. If this were World War II, Russia would be able to rebound. But Russia has not fought a multidivisional war for 77 years. We saw the Russians open the war with three armored thrusts largely unable to cope with logistical problems and anti-tank weapons. In effect, they were forced to retreat from offensive missions, regroup and wind up in the position they are in. They are fighting an enemy in the same position, but one that does not have a logistical problem thanks to the U.S., which has also had its share of failure but whose most robust capability is logistics.

The Russians must obviously change the dynamic of the war if they are not going to be forced into a political settlement. The key is to pose threats to the Ukrainians from multiple directions, both tactically and strategically. Indeed, their primary need is to diffuse U.S. logistics by creating a serious military threat to another American ally or directly attacking one. It is not clear that the U.S. would be unable to supply two fronts, but it might unbalance the U.S. and force it to reduce support for Ukraine, possibly opening opportunities for Russia.

Geography provides few options for this, but the most likely ones are Moldova and Romania, two countries connected to one another. It could not be an overland offensive but would have to take advantage of the Black Sea, landing significant forces in Romania, a NATO member and host to an American naval force. To achieve this, the Russians would have to first use missiles to eliminate Ukrainian anti-ship missiles like those that sank the Moskva. Having done this, they would have to achieve and maintain air or missile superiority over the Black Sea and then land and lodge sufficient force to compel Romanian forces into combat with substantial American forces. Given that there are American naval forces outside the Bosporus, and given that NATO’s mandate or sheer necessity would force the Bosporus shut, this would pose a serious threat to the Russians. Add to this an air attack on Russian forces, and this operation would likely fail.

There are perhaps other viable diversionary actions of sufficient significance to compel the United States to divert its forces, but all of them would be built on land movements at a time when Russia is hard-pressed. An attack on the Baltics would bring a significant Polish attack on Russia’s flank, and mounting an attack on Finland, for example, would be detected and anticipated. The same is true with Romania, but with somewhat lower opportunity.

Of course, the Romanian gambit itself is highly dubious, but here we are assuming that Russia has been forced to the defense and that it is unwilling to abandon the war. Few options are attractive at this point, but the political cost of abandoning the war is enormous. If they must continue and the Russians can’t regain the initiative, then a Hail Mary is the only option.

The final option is one I wrote about before, which is massing forces in the east and then attacking Ukraine with new forces. That remains the most likely solution for Russia, assuming it can mass, train and motivate a large force. If not, Russia might achieve a poor draw, but it cannot impose its will on Ukraine.

George Friedman is an internationally recognized geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs and the founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures.

Dr. Friedman is also a New York Times bestselling author. His most recent book, THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM: America’s Discord, the Coming Crisis of the 2020s, and the Triumph Beyond, published February 25, 2020 describes how “the United States periodically reaches a point of crisis in which it appears to be at war with itself, yet after an extended period it reinvents itself, in a form both faithful to its founding and radically different from what it had been.” The decade 2020-2030 is such a period which will bring dramatic upheaval and reshaping of American government, foreign policy, economics, and culture.

His most popular book, The Next 100 Years, is kept alive by the prescience of its predictions. Other best-selling books include Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe, The Next Decade, America’s Secret War, The Future of War and The Intelligence Edge. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Dr. Friedman has briefed numerous military and government organizations in the United States and overseas and appears regularly as an expert on international affairs, foreign policy and intelligence in major media. For almost 20 years before resigning in May 2015, Dr. Friedman was CEO and then chairman of Stratfor, a company he founded in 1996. Friedman received his bachelor’s degree from the City College of the City University of New York and holds a doctorate in government from Cornell University.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Russia
KEYWORDS: bidenswar; bidenwarmongering; nukes; putinlovertrollsonfr; putinsbuttboys; putinworshippers; russia; ukraine; zottherussiantrolls
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1 posted on 09/22/2022 9:36:35 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Not our circus. Not our monkeys.

2 posted on 09/22/2022 9:41:01 PM PDT by BenLurkin (The above is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion, or satire, or both.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Since following the events in Ukraine, it seems the West has pushed the Russia/Nukes scenario. Biden said months ago the US would not take nukes off the table.

Waiting for a false flag like those we saw in Syria.

3 posted on 09/22/2022 9:46:45 PM PDT by sockmonkey (Conservative. Not a Neocon.)
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To: sockmonkey
False Fag Incoming! duck...

4 posted on 09/22/2022 9:59:57 PM PDT by Bobalu (This Republic is designed for a wholly moral and religious people. It will not work with any other.)
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To: BenLurkin

Our guys are the impressarios of this circus and have put their monkeys on our payroll.

5 posted on 09/22/2022 10:02:30 PM PDT by AndyJackson
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To: SeekAndFind

Rssia-Ukraine war: The western threat of nuclear annihilation’

“It was back in February that the West began to threaten Russia with nuclear war in response to a statement given by President Vladimir Putin. ...”

6 posted on 09/22/2022 10:03:24 PM PDT by Its All Over Except ...
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To: SeekAndFind
Russia considering nukes on a rag tag Ukraine coupled with dragging bodies kicking and screaming, forcing them to fight, demonstrates to the world their military weakness not their strength.

At the rate they're going, if they did try a nuke it just might blow up in their faces.

7 posted on 09/22/2022 10:04:59 PM PDT by lewislynn (Trump accomplished more in one term than any other President in your lifetime.)
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To: sockmonkey
Memories of the Cuban missile crisis in view ....though this is worse.
8 posted on 09/22/2022 10:06:18 PM PDT by caww (O death, when you seized my Lord, you lost your grip on me......Augustine)
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To: sockmonkey

Why would the US take nukes off the table when Russia threatens them as a matter of course? Heck, Putin did so at a nuclear disarmament(?) conference shortly B4 this war started. The link to the vid was posted here on FR by a Pooty supporter.

9 posted on 09/22/2022 10:07:55 PM PDT by Paul R. (You know your pullets are dumb if they don't recognize a half Whopper as food!)
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To: Bobalu

Is this fag related to soros?

10 posted on 09/22/2022 10:07:57 PM PDT by Captainpaintball
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To: Paul R.

Find Ze’s speech in Munich. He threatened Russia with nukes before it has all started. Then the French FM talked about nukes and you probably heard what Ben Hodges was talking. Putin is clearly defensive on this one.

11 posted on 09/22/2022 10:13:30 PM PDT by NorseViking
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To: sockmonkey

Did you read Putin’s speech this week? He explicitly talks about Nukes. No need to hate on “the West,” Putin lays out his nuclear threats plainly.

12 posted on 09/22/2022 10:13:48 PM PDT by Alter Kaker (Gravitation is a theory, not a fact. It should be approached with an open mind...)
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To: Captainpaintball

Soros is from Hungary. Are you slow?

13 posted on 09/22/2022 10:15:20 PM PDT by Alter Kaker (Gravitation is a theory, not a fact. It should be approached with an open mind...)
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To: SeekAndFind

If Russia sent one nuke into Washington DC.
Would the rest of the nation give a crap?

I wouldn’t care, in fact my attitude would be:

Good bye, you democrat parasites and good riddance.

“Washington DC Delenda Est.”

14 posted on 09/22/2022 10:25:39 PM PDT by unclebankster (Globalism is the last refuge of a scoundrel)
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To: SeekAndFind; All

Putins preemptive nuclear doctrine threat is on the table.

As well, tactical nuclear artillery is reasonably m.j ot an option in close frontline combat, as it could cause losses to Russia’s own side.

As well, Russian doctrine also fully utilizes the “civilian as weapon”, in a strategy of forcing complete collapse of all societal function. This is also a Russian tried and true method from at least three recent conflicts, and has already been widely utilized across Ukraine.

As such, it is almost unlikely Putin would not use at least lower dialed strategic nuclear weapons.

As well, Russia has at least 3 new Chemical Weapons Brigades since 2012, with arguably the most advanced CW weapons distribution platforms in the world.

Russia already had the world’s most active and tangible Bio Weapons program in the world, but Putin ordered the continued development and significant increase in budget allocation for Bio Weapons as one of his first “formal” orders after being appointed President by Yeltsin in 1999. Of course that was just ahead of the New Years/Russian Orthodox break, so after January 7th of 2000. This is a very real threat as well, but much less likely to be used in Ukraine, as a number of those weapons don’t have reliably working anecdotes


In late March 30/31, 2022, Russia flew two Sukhoi 24 bombers armed with nuclear missiles, with two Sukhoi 27 fighter escorts over Finish and Swedish airspace.

As these were intercepted by Swedish JAS-39’s, the SU-24’s rolled so the Swedish fighter pilots and cameras could photo the nuclear missiles.

Off and on in 2019, 2020, and heavier in 2021 Russian nuclear subs encircled Britain. The following is only a piece referencing 2021, as for about 5 years, the Royal Navy sought hard to keep a lid on the information -

In January 2022, Russia held a 140+ ship naval exercise off the coast of Ireland, but then a number of ships and nuclear subs were reported to British Parliament to be loitering all the way around Britain, coastal France, and “in the pocket” between Germany, Belgium, Poland, and Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Baltics.

Simultaneously, Russia held a 144 ship and sub exercise stretching from coastal Oman and Gulf of Aden, to right up next to US Navy Base Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Just before reaching Lemonnier, China’s Navy joined the then joint exercise which went right up the Red Sea to one of Russia’s refurbished naval facilities opposite Yemen, where they have really been supplying weapons to the Houthi and Iranian backed Rebels attacking SA, with the goal of destroying Saudi and UAE energy lines to Israel and Europe.

Off and in since Bill Clinton, but steady under Obama, the up to 11 Russian nuclear subs, which are associated with the Russian nuclear battlecruiser “Peter the Great” (which calls the Venezuelan island of La Orchila home, routinely travel or loiter within approximately 1500 NM from “Peter the Great”. Sub locations are regular between Bermuda and Newfundland and Labrador, but also occasionally test Bill Clinton’s 12 NM territorial boundaries of the US East Coast. It happened under Clinton, and Obama multiple times, but over the past two years, these incidents are almost routine, and stretch from Texas to Maine, with the occasional stop in Cuba. There is also overlap utilizing the Chinese controlled Panama Canal, between Russia’s Pacific and Atlantic hybrid nuclear battle group’s.

There is a whole lot more, including a highly nuclear weaponized Kaliningrad, and Philippine area, but enough for now.

No one wants this, but nuclear blackmail, utilizing a known weak US fraud president, and utilizing fearful trembling populations, is obviously the new toy by a leftist fascist to move his border.

15 posted on 09/22/2022 10:45:56 PM PDT by patriotfury ((May the fleas of a thousand camels occupy mo' ham mads tents!) )
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To: SeekAndFind

The Russians, unlike Joe’s folks, will not tell you exactly what they plan to do.

Winter is coming and that’s prime Russian fighting weather.

I think Putin plans a massive push with experienced troops, with the 300,000 new draftees expected to hold the existing lines.

The Russians tend to be conservative. They might talk nuclear, but talk isn’t walk.

16 posted on 09/22/2022 11:00:18 PM PDT by Brian Griffin
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To: Brian Griffin

He is not calling draftees but reserves.

17 posted on 09/22/2022 11:03:17 PM PDT by NorseViking
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To: SeekAndFind
They are built for tactical effect, not strategic effect. Strategic nuclear weapons, such as the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [...]

Despite his attempts, the author does not make it absolutely clear what constitutes a "strategic" as opposed to "tactical" nuclear weapon.

The Uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the Plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki both had explosive yields of approx. 12-15 kilotons - certainly not what would today be categorized as "strategic."

The author should clearly spell out the criteria for categorizing a nuclear device as "strategic" vs. "tactical." Is it the explosive yield, alone? Or does it depend upon the given use (e.g., on the battlefield vs. against cities)?


18 posted on 09/22/2022 11:03:31 PM PDT by alexander_busek (Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.)
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To: NorseViking

Zelenskyy is a good one to do the threatening. He’s acting like the United States is his own personal bodyguard, trained to do his bidding.
I say phooey to that. I have been on Ukraine’s side from the beginning, but all the money we’ve given him and all the military stuff we’ve sent over there isn’t getting it done. My patience is wearing thin.

Putin threatens to use nukes, mr.Z threatens Russia, with OUR weapons which he does NOT control, and we have Mr. Crazy Putin potentially with his finger on the trigger and Mr. Crazy Biden with HIS finger possibly getting itchy, and the Z-Man goading them both on.

China is staying out and hoping for a peaceful solution.

Crazy times we live in.

I’m going to bed. Got to pick up my Brother-in-Law (Democrat) in the morning and take him out for breakfast. He has Parkinson’s, and I don’t really mind doing it since he can’t get around by himself anymore.
I just hope he doesn’t start talking politics, especially before we’ve had coffee.

19 posted on 09/22/2022 11:12:55 PM PDT by telescope115 (Proud member of the ANTIFAuci movement. )
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To: SeekAndFind

Putin, Prigoshin, and Kadyriv all need to be taken out . Anyone within the Russian security apparatus that can do this, all on the same day , could go a long way to restoring Russia’s honor, prestige , as and influence in the world . If Russians just stand by , like Germans did in the ‘30s , they will eventually see their entire society, country, and culture destroyed . This should happen, the sooner the better . Enough of this stupid war already . Drop the war monger’s dicks in the dirt.

20 posted on 09/23/2022 1:17:12 AM PDT by LeoWindhorse
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