Putin is preparing to fight and win a limited nuclear war against the West, Skobov says

History's first test of a tactical nuclear weapon using artillery as a delivery mechanism was conducted by the United States in 1953. The Grable Event, a part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, was a 15-kiloton nuclear charge fired from a 280-mm artillery gun on May 25, 1953 at the Nevada Proving Grounds. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

History's first test of a tactical nuclear weapon using artillery as a delivery mechanism was conducted by the United States in 1953. The Grable Event, a part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, was a 15-kiloton nuclear charge fired from a 280-mm artillery gun on May 25, 1953 at the Nevada Proving Grounds. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) 

International, Op-ed

Putin is preparing to fight and win a limited nuclear war, convinced that “the effete West will refuse to escalate” in response lest that lead to a nuclear Armageddon that will destroy both the Russian Federation and the West, according to Moscow commentator Aleksandr Skobov.

The Cold War doctrine was based on the assumption that neither super power would ever use nuclear weapons for offense but only in defense and that both would be prepared to escalate if the other acted first, an assumption that provided less certainty that war could be avoided than many now believe, Skobov says.

On the one hand, each side had developed plans for using tactical and then strategic weapons if the other side used them. And on the other, the commentator continues, both had to continue to invest in ever more apocalyptic weapons as the last line of defense of what each viewed as its civilizational model.

According to Skobov, “both sides were certain of the superiority of their own social system and in the eventual collapse of the social system of their opponent in a global defeat in the historical competition.” In essence, “both sides considered a global military clash with their historical opponents as practically inevitable.”

Moreover, both sides concluded that they might be pushed to the use of nuclear weapons if the use of conventional ones was not allowing them to win out. NATO doctrine held that in the event of a Soviet tank thrust into Europe, the western alliance would have to use tactical nuclear weapons.

“In the USSR,” Skobov continues, “the doctrine of ‘a responsive nuclear strike’ was adopted officially, but in fact, the General Staff considered a sufficient basis for a [Soviet] nuclear strike only the possibility that the first strike might be inflicted by [the USSR’s] opponents.”

And because neither side could be certain what might happen, each was prepared to escalate in response, something that both sides recognized and that was ultimately the reason that neither side used those weapons against the other lest its civilizational model be destroyed along with the world.

“Until Gorbachev’s perestroika,” Skobov says, “all attempts not only to begin the process of disarmament or even to freeze the number of weapons at a certain level turned out to be hopeless” as a result. “All ‘pre-perestroika’ Soviet-American treaties were only agreements about reducing the tempo of the building of arms.”

The world was thus drifting toward a nuclear war, a horrific outcome that was prevented only by the decision of the Soviet leadership under Gorbachev to reject its global political goals, its ideology, its faith in the supremacy of its social system, and its efforts to impose that system on others by defeating its opponent.

By refusing to view the West as an inevitable enemy, the Soviet leadership made possible arms control deals that reduced the number of nuclear weapons of the two sides by 80 percent. “Russian imperialists call this a geopolitical capitulation, but the alternative to it was nuclear war,” Skobov argues.

But now what Gorbachev did is being reversed.

Putin’s “organized criminal group” even though it has not articulated an ideology views itself as “’the elect of history,’ called upon to send into the trash heap all this ‘Western project’ with its ‘false democracy,’ ‘false’ humanism, and ‘false’ human rights.”

This is not “a return to Soviet ideology,” Skobov insists. “The Soviet empire claimed that namely it was the true legal heir of the Renaissance-Enlightenment project and the heir of 1789 which proclaimed ‘freedom, equality, and brotherhood.’” The Putinists, in contrast, “are convinced that there are no ‘true’ human rights and that democracy doesn’t exist in nature.”

For Putin and his acolytes, “there is only loot and crude force and the eternal universal laws of criminal groups.” It “doesn’t seek to be the heir of 1789: it rejects that inheritance just as Hitler did.” And that points up something else: “the ideological gap separating the Putin empire and the West is much deeper than the one which divided the West and the Soviet empire.”

Putin’s “organized criminal group” may not believe that Western elites have any moral limitations, “but it cannot but understand that NATO does not have a single reason in the event of a military conflict to use nuclear weapons first.” That is because today, NATO has superiority over Russia “in other kinds of arms.”

Equally, the Putin people “cannot but know” that neither side has an effective defense against strategic nuclear missiles “and in the coming decades won’t” either. To ensure that the principles of mutually assured destruction continue to work as a constraint, Skobov says, “no new “super weapons” are needed.

Then, why is Putin talking about them? In fact, he isn’t talking about strategic weapons that could be used to bring on Armageddon but rather precisely targeted ones that could serve as the weapon of choice for “a limited nuclear strike, including a first strike” rather than in response to the actions of the West.

Putin is “certainly not preparing for complete mutual destruction,” Skobov says.

“He is preparing for a limited nuclear war which he hopes to win.” His hopes rest on his conviction that the West now will not respond to a Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons by escalating but by doing everything possible to de-escalate.

As in the first Cold War, the commentator continues, “the world’s slide toward a nuclear catastrophe can be stopped only by Russia turning away from its confrontation with the West” based on Moscow’s belief that its system is superior and the West’s is rotting from within because it is not.

But tragically, “today there are no forces within the country capable of turning Russia” in a different direction. And the world is rapidly running out of time. “Therefore,” Skobov says, “the first order of business is the formation of a broad international anti-Putin coalition, which recognizes the threat coming from the Kremlin and is ready to respond to Putin’s strike.”

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Edited by: A. N.

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