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 12 FEB 2022








As things now stand, should Putin give the order, Ukraine could be invaded tomorrow, next week, next month,....or never. We hope it is never.

A substantial number of analysts still think that the most likely outcome is the last...never.


They point out that invading Ukraine, while it could be possible anytime, involves a gamble of a sort that Putin might finally be reluctant to undertake. Ukraine might be a harder nut to crack than his initially optimistic estimates suggested. It might (probably will) be much harder to control territory for any length of time in the face of what might turn out to be a substantial partizan resistance. Finally, Putin has diplomatic leverage with the THREAT of invasion, which vanishes the moment the threat of invasion turns into actual invasion.

All of these are very real considerations, and I am hopeful that there is at least a 50% likelihood that they might (emphasise 'might') prove decisive. Nonetheless, even if the plan is NOT to invade Ukraine (or Putin simply doesn't know what he wants to do), I believe that the world stands in as great a danger of escalation to nuclear war as it has ever stood.

As things stand, Putin has made Ukraine’s attachment to NATO more, rather than less, likely, and has vastly strengthened the attraction NATO has even for hitherto neutral Sweden and Finland. This is astonishing – even in the midst of the cold war (I mean the first cold war, or Cold War#1), during Soviet times, Finland and Sweden held staunchly to their neutrality and it proved to be in their interests to do so. It seems that Putin has alienated even them, suggesting also that he is by no means the cunning and cool operator he likes to be thought of as being. In the longer run, this entire crisis may prove to be not a step forward for Russia but a massive move backwards into isolation.

The moment Russian tanks cross the border and advance toward Kiev, all sympathy for the entirely real wrongs Russia has suffered with the advance eastwards of NATO after being promised 'not an inch eastwards' in 1990, and repeated statements to that or similar effect by many others, will vanish.

Russia argues, correctly, that no consideration has been given or is being given for their strategic interests. This is entirely true. But once an invasion takes place none, and less than none, will be given. Even if an invasion were 100% successful in the sense of occupying territory, and even if the Ukrainian army turned tail and fled, Russia would have acquired not an asset but a bleeding sore, and international obloquy. No consideration whatsoever would ever again be given to Russians strategic interests.

One should therefore take matters at least semi-seriously when Russia denies an intent to invade. Don't get me wrong. Russia might invade tomorrow. I give it 50-50. But even with troops assembled as they now, are there are entirely substantial reasons to suggest that invasion, from Russia's own point of view, might not be the smartest idea. And Putin prides himself on being smart.

Then there is the slight problem of WW-III.

Putin himself actually raised the issue when he suggested that if Ukraine joined NATO and then attempted to take Crimea back by force (something that on reflection, NATO would probably not let him do for reasons that are blindingly obvious), then 'NATO would be dragged into WW-III'. In other words he, Putin, would escalate to the nuclear level. Putin has in effect used the threat of nuclear war as blackmail.

Someone more bloodyminded than I (and more inclined to take insane risks with civilisation) might have been tempted to riposte to Putin that Ukraine would become part of NATO the moment is borders were violated. I'm sure that option has been mulled.

The evolution/escalation of war with Ukraine into WW-III and the apocalypse is not complicated to conceptualise at all. It goes something like – Ukraine proves not to be a pushover and fighting escalates. Streams of refugees pour west into Poland and Romania (both of whom have received reinforcements of US troops in the last few days I note). One way or another, Poland becomes involved in the hostilities, and war with Poland becomes automatically war with NATO. (I have a vested interest in Poland not being involved. My beloved is Polish and is in Poland right now. I'd prefer her not to be incinerated. I might be there myself later. I too don't wish to be vaporized.)

The Kaliningrad exclave, an island of Russia surrounded by NATO countries (Poland, Lithuania), bristles with tactical nuclear weapons – primarily the Iskander missile with a range of 500Km. Iskanders have also been introduced into Belarus and western Russia, but its not clear whether or not these ones are nuclear – tipped.

A NATO or Polish attack on Kaliningrad would be likely to provoke a nuclear response whether or not Putin explicitly authorised one, based on the 'use it or lose it' choice faced by lower level commanders.

From that point on, escalation to strategic nuclear weapons use would be a much lesser jump.

The BBC back in 2014, managed to get a videocamera into a war-game conducted in a bunker in the basement of Whitehall, that games just precisely such an escalation sequence.


Another, entirely fictional 'pretend – BBC' video has also been doing the rounds. Providing you remember it was NOT created by the BBC and is entirely fictional, its worth watching too.


Both sketch out a '1914 style escalation sequence' that ends in effect in WW-III.

I am not, repeat not, saying that the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine WILL escalate into WW-III, nor even that if an invasion does take place that this too will with 100% probability escalate into WW-III. Hopefully that probability is less than 10%.

I AM saying that there are pathways whereby it COULD escalate into WW-III.

Biden had the right instinct when he said 'US troops shooting at Russian troops – thats WW-III.'

The escalation of conflict in Ukraine into WW-III would, within hours, mean the end of hi-tech 'civilisation', the death of much of the population of both east and west Europe, (the use of tactical nuclear weapons alone is enough to assure this), and as the conflict went strategic with the use of long range ICBMs based in silos, and on submarines, (and in Russia’s case, mobile land based ICBMs), hundreds of millions in cities entirely remote from the conflict would die in not minutes but seconds.

However probable or improbable one rates this utterly catastrophic outcome, this is the outcome that all our efforts must focus on avoiding.

And like it or not we are closer to it right now than we have been at anytime since at least the Cuban Missile Crisis.

To avoid it we need to:

--If possible, avoid altogether war of any kind (But especially large scale war) between Ukraine and Russia.

--If war comes anyway, take any measures necessary to limit it and to terminate it quickly.

Widespread war involving NATO is (Hopefully) not necessarily the most probable outcome. It is being argued by the US administration that Putin may not have made his mind up whether or not to invade. WE hope that's correct. Even if Putin does invade there are options that do not involve an attempt to occupy all of Ukraine. (which rules our regime change, which necessitates complete occupation of Ukraine). These involve e.g., occupation and annexation of Donbass, and/or sheering off of the southern portion of Ukraine. While some point to the disposition of troops as indicating a push on Kiev, more detailed maps of the number of troops (BBC provides such maps), suggest the priorities may be further east.

Of course, whether Putins objectives in Ukraine are limited or involve an attempted occupation and annexation of all of Ukraine, the ultimate price paid by Russia will be not worth it.

Biden was vilified (and quickly retracted) a statement some time ago that if Russia in effect just sliced of a bit of Ukraine that would be more tolerable than an attempted complete occupation. In fact he was dead right. The annexation of Donbass and Luhansk COULD be 'lived with' if indeed things went no further.

Seriously negotiating with Russia will involve the acknowledgement that parts at least of the Russian narrative are NOT disinformation, but have validity and demand to be addressed. They will involve a real attempt to take seriously Russia’s security concerns over NATO, and over the way those concerns have been pushed aside.

Absent the taking seriously of critical parts of Russia’s 'narrative', the best we can look forward to is continued rumours and threats of war, and a vengeful and isolated Russia.


John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

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

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