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Home Articles Flashpoints Back from the Brink???

Back from the Brink???

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 Sat 5 Nov 2022





It has seemed in as if Russia might possibly have stepped back just a few millimetres from the nuclear brink the other day. Whether or not it has really done so, it would be profoundly in Russia's own interest to do so. Commencement of an event sequence that might possibly end in complete global apocalypse is clearly in no one's interest. What good is the 'conquest' of Ukraine if you've been vaporised and if what you 'conquer' is likewise vaporised? President Putin's recent statement that there was/is no reason to use tactical nukes in Ukraine is at least hopeful.

In any case it seems that the actual use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine:

--Might not be of much military help at all, and would not bring Ukraine to surrender.

--Would certainly trigger conventional attacks from NATO that would destroy Russian military on the ground.

--Could escalate to a global strategic nuclear exchange that would destroy everyone and everything (at least in the US, Russia, Europe, and NATO-Allied states as well as key non-NATO allies such as Japan and Australia.).

Even in his bunker in the Altai Mts, Vladimir Putin would be unlikely to physically survive. Over half the population of the world would die within hours, and hi-tech 'civilisation' would not recover for centuries if at all.

This last is an eventuality no one should want and that no one should risk.

Notwithstanding Putin's 'theological' statements echoed by Margarita Simonyan on Russian state TV, that in the event of a strategic US-Russia nuclear exchange, Russians would rise to heaven as 'martyrs', while US and NATO populations (largely uninvolved) would 'just cark it' (Putins words), surely Putin would prefer to live and not be vaporised, knowing that all Russia would also cease to exist.

It seems that the Russian General Staff DID discuss, amongst themselves, the possibility of the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

One can assume (hopefully) that they concluded that their use was sufficiently militarily dubious, and the likelihood of catastrophic blowback from NATO was such, that such use was/is highly inadvisable.

A further factor seems to have been a series of attempted nuclear tests (according to the SVR Blog), whose complete lack of success may, hopefully, have persuaded Mr Putin that his nuclear arsenal was/is of doubtful reliability.

The accusations of a possible Ukrainian use of a 'dirty bomb' viewed in that perspective, seem not so much a warmup to use of tactical nukes, but rather a poor substitute for tactical nukes.

Nothing is certain about this of course, but it's legitimate to hope at least, that Russia has concluded – at least for the moment – that use of a tactical nuclear weapon at least in the immediate term is not advisable. It either might not work at all or it might produce 'blowback' that would cause Russia's complete military defeat.

This in turn means – most likely – that Russia cannot actually 'win' its war of choice against Ukraine.

Of course, Russia (or rather Putin) should never have started this war, and this particular decision now ranks as one of the biggest miscalculations in history.

Russia's standing in the world, its military, its economy, and even its role as a supplier or LNG, have been dealt crippling blows by the Ukraine war.

Further fighting will likely not only take more lives – Russian and of course Ukrainian - but bleed Russia dry.

Russia must seek an 'off – ramp'.

So too must Ukraine.

I have argued consistently that a negotiated settlement is vital.

I will also argue that the Pre-Feb 24 status quo could be a good STARTING POINT for such a negotiated settlement.

OSCE-supervised and run real referenda might be a way to do that.

And let the chips of those decisions fall where they may. One suspects that the inhabitants thereof might not be terribly keen now to be part of Russia, but only they themselves know, and only they have the right to decide.

Elon Musk was and is quite right that Crimea, Lukhansk and Donbass could be allowed to make their own decisions about what they wish to be. Musk was pilloried for these entirely reasonable observations. This was outrageous.

Those who dogmatically say that Putin should not be 'rewarded' for aggression condemn us to unending conflict in Ukraine. ALL conflicts in which the complete surrender or annihilation of one side does not take place, including both world wars, end with a piece of paper mutually agreed by both sides.

Absent a negotiated settlement there simply won't be an end to this war, and there will always be the possibility – remote, less remote or terrifyingly close – of escalation to a civilisation destroying global spasm of destruction.

And is that really what the world wants?


The sooner earnest, reality-based, negotiations begin, the better.


John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament/Human Survival Project

Co-Convenor, Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction

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