Putin threatens "with all means": How likely is a nuclear bomb over the Black Sea?
Created: 09/27/2022, 16:39
A nuclear war would have devastating effects on humanity.
© Markus Gann/Imago
In the war in Ukraine, Russia's ruler Vladimir Putin does not shy away from anything.
He repeatedly threatened to use atomic bombs.
Moscow - After the Russian army's setbacks in the Ukraine war, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly threatened to resort to "all means".
This raises fears that a nuclear weapon could be used for the first time since 1945.
Russia is the world's largest nuclear power.
An overview of possible scenarios:
Ukraine War: What Could a Russian Nuclear Attack Look Like?
According to experts, Moscow would probably use one or more tactical nuclear bombs.
These are weapons with an explosive force between 0.3 and 100 kilotons.
For comparison, the US's largest strategic warhead has a yield of 1.2 megatons, and Russia tested a 58-megaton bomb in 1961.
Tactical bombs are designed for limited effect on the battlefield, unlike strategic nuclear weapons that can wipe out entire regions.
But even smaller nuclear explosives can be devastating: the atomic bomb that the USA dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 had only 15 kilotons.
Moscow could detonate a tactical nuclear weapon high over Ukraine or over the Black Sea, writes James Cameron of the University of Oslo's Oslo Nuclear Project in The
A drop in a sparsely populated area or a military facility is also conceivable - with the aim of persuading Kyiv to capitulate and splitting its allies.
War in Ukraine: what could trigger a nuclear strike?
Putin has indicated that he would use nuclear weapons in the event of a threat to Russia's territorial integrity.
It remained unclear whether this also includes areas such as Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, or the Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine, which Moscow now wants to incorporate by referendum.
For Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the ambiguity in Putin's statement means that Donbass and Crimea are not included.
"There's no point in making such a vague threat if people aren't sure if they're really threatened or not," Cancian was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
So far, the US government has observed no movements of nuclear weapons.
Ukraine War: How Would the West Respond?
The West has not yet made clear how it would react to a tactical nuclear strike.
On the one hand, the United States and NATO do not want to appear weak, but on the other hand they want to prevent the war in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, from escalating into a global nuclear war.
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The US government has been trying to avoid an escalation since the beginning of the Russian invasion: NATO forces are not fighting in Ukraine, and the weapons supplied to Kyiv are not suitable for attacking Russian territory.
According to information from the
, the US government has been trying to dissuade Moscow from using nuclear bombs in recent months by sending private messages to representatives of Russia.
Most recently, Putin's confidant threatened Medvedev again with nuclear weapons.
Video: War in Ukraine: This is how a Russian nuclear strike could go
Should the Kremlin nevertheless fire nuclear weapons, the US government would have to react decisively.
Otherwise, other countries like China could be tricked " into believing that nuclear weapons will help them achieve their goals without serious consequences," says Matthew Kroenig of the US-based Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.
Washington could respond with a conventional attack on Russian forces or the military base that launched the nuclear strike, and increased military aid to Ukraine, says Kroenig, a former Pentagon adviser.