Russia TV recently aired a segment simulating a nuclear missile attack on the United Kingdom. There is no chance that the Kremlin was not aware of the reporting given that Putin has tight control over the country’s media. The special was in response to UK officials who were suggesting that Ukraine should consider targeting logistical facilities inside of Russia.
The theory behind this suggestion is that these facilities are responsible for command and control of belligerent Russian forces attacking the Ukraine armed forces. NATO and her partners are playing a dangerous game with this type of rhetoric. The Pentagon openly admitted recently that it is training Ukraine troops in Germany on the multitude of arms being provided by the western powers. Russia has repeatedly said that such actions brand the hosting countries as belligerents in the conflict.
Russia has so far refrained from conducting attacks outside of NATO’s borders but there has been an alarming increase in the statements by their diplomats and Putin himself. The Russian president has repeatedly referred to the use of nuclear weapons as a possibility if the there is an existential threat to the motherland. This is a vague and troubling standard that could easily lead to a miscalculation.
There has also been some conjecture about Vladimir Putin’s health, which could threaten to destabilize his decision making. Conditions ranging between cancer and Parkson’s disease have been thrown around when discussing the Russian president’s health. If Putin was indeed suffering from a chronic disease, or worse a terminal one, then western powers would have to consider the out of control ‘madman’ scenario when planning out its strategy. Even contemplating the possibility is destabilizing.
The best hope for avoiding a catastrophic direct confrontation with Russia is a quick resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. This, however, is the exact opposite strategy that the Pentagon is adopting. They have come out and explicitly stated the current strategy of the United States is to prolong the conflict to weaken Russia, so it is incapable of further aggression. Although this is an understandable goal, it is a high-risk strategy. So far Russia is responding by becoming more aggressive, not less. Let us hope Putin keeps his response limited to heated rhetoric.