image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Nulclear Threat from Prolonged Russia-Ukraine War

Determined Ukrainian resistance with the massive military and logistics support by NATO and EU makes outright Russian victory in the Russia-Ukraine war highly unlikely. Use of chemical and even tactical nuclear weapons is now a real Russian threat.

If the Russian flag-ship Moskva and earlier, the landing ship, Saratov, were sunk by Ukraine missiles as claimed, then that demonstrates high level Ukrainian military capability and can result in an escalation of the conflict. More so if such losses continue to be inflicted on the Russians in the Black Sea. All such setbacks are frustrating Russia and creating a highly explosive (no pun intended!) environment. Delay in resolving the war issues is bringing the world closer to a nuclear war. Russia can be pushed to use chemical and nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, especially if NATO weapons assistance for Ukraine, continues.

Let us remind ourselves that, following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia wants to bring the Russian speaking Donbass region including the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist states, under own influence. Since then, over 13,000 people had been killed in the separatist conflict when the direct Russia-Ukraine war started in February 2022. Russia wants to overthrow Zelensky government, demilitarize Ukraine and prevent it from becoming a NATO member.

Ukrainian forces led by experienced generals and the charismatic President Zelensky have done well and won the admiration of the world. As reported, they have proved tactically adroit in defence, despite ostensible Russian military superiority. Bolstered now by Western supplies of equipment, it is hard to see Ukraine being crushed militarily &ndash unless Russia ups the ante again by using chemical weapons or tactical (battlefield) nuclear weapons.

If at all, such has been the horrific scale of Russian destruction of civilian population and property in Ukraine that it has added to the resolve of the average Ukrainian to die fighting for his country. One can only but admire the great courage of the Ukrainians. President Zelensky has proved to be a most capable war leader. European countries have received over 4 million Ukrainian refugees with open arms and aid continues to pour into Ukraine.

President Zelensky has asked for more air raid shelters and anti-radiation medicines. Nearly two months after the start of the war, Russia is even further from achieving its war objectives through any form of negotiated settlement. Yet, Ukraine is not strong enough to repel superior Russian forces. So, the most likely scenario, even if the war is limited to Ukraine, is what has been described as an unresolved frozen conflict.

The future is very uncertain. Ukrainians have now become bitter enemies of Russia under President Putin. The ordinary Russian people are not fully aware of what is going on and, generally, support Putin who is unlikely to be removed in the near future. Opportunities for settling the Donbass separatists issue have been missed by Ukraine. A referendum could have resolved it.

As it is, both Ukraine and Russia will come out as losers in this deadly war. Russia will suffer massively economically as it gets cut off from world trade while Ukraine will lose much of its eastern part due to the unresolved frozen conflict.

That will be a global trade loss also while the danger of a war involving use of nuclear weapons continues to hang over our heads.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd