Copyright © 2024

The work of Euromaidan Press is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation

When referencing our materials, please include an active hyperlink to the Euromaidan Press material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. To reprint anything longer, written permission must be acquired from [email protected].

Privacy and Cookie Policies.

ISW: Russia escalates nuclear rhetoric as tactic to deter Western support for Ukraine

Russia strategically intensifies nuclear threats to manipulate Western policy decisions, aiming to discourage military support for Ukraine, ISW says.
A Russian Orthodox priest of the Moscow Patriarchate blesses a Russian S-300 nuclear-capable long range surface-to-air missile system. Photo: Aleksei Pavlischak / TASS
A Russian Orthodox priest of the Moscow Patriarchate blesses a Russian S-300 nuclear-capable long range surface-to-air missile system. Photo: Aleksei Pavlischak / TASS
ISW: Russia escalates nuclear rhetoric as tactic to deter Western support for Ukraine

Russia “appears to be re-intensifying a reflexive control campaign targeting Western decision-making using nuclear threats and diplomatic manipulation,” the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War says

Reflexive control is a crucial component of Russia’s hybrid warfare strategy, employing targeted rhetoric and information operations to manipulate an adversary into voluntarily taking actions beneficial to Russia. Soviet mathematician Vladimir Lefebvre described it as the process of conveying decision-making triggers to an adversary through provocations, intrigues, disguises, the creation of false objects, and various forms of deception.

Russia has frequently employed nuclear saber-rattling during its full-scale invasion of Ukraine as a form of reflexive control, aiming to deter the West—its self-defined adversary—from providing military support to Ukraine.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has accused the US of deploying ground-based intermediate and short-range missiles globally, claiming this justifies Russia’s reciprocal actions. Additionally, the Russian MFA views the potential arrival of F-16s to Ukraine as a provocation, alleging these could be carriers of nuclear weapons—a consistent claim since Western commitments to send F-16s in summer 2023.

Russian aggressive rhetoric intensifies as Ukraine nears F-16 delivery

Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairperson of the Russian Security Council, has accused US, French, and British officials of contemplating troop deployments to Ukraine, justifying Russia’s tactical nuclear tests. Medvedev further threatened a “world catastrophe” and potential Russian strikes against Washington, Paris, and London due to Western involvement in Ukraine.

Russian officials, particularly Medvedev, are critical elements of Russia’s efforts to use nuclear rhetoric as a form of reflexive control, as ISW has frequently reported. Russian officials consistently time nuclear readiness exercises and vague threats of nuclear retaliation with important Western policy decisions regarding the war in Ukraine to force Western decision-makers to self-deter and temper their support for Ukraine,” ISW notes.

The resurgence of nuclear rhetoric, now manifesting as planned tactical nuclear weapons exercises, aligns with the imminent delivery of Western weapons to Ukraine. Russian officials are likely leveraging this nuclear threat as an information operation to “discourage Ukraine’s Western partners from providing additional military support” and to “scare Western decision-makers out of allowing Ukrainian forces to use Western-provided systems to attack legitimate military targets in Russia,” ISW says.

Russian troops engage in routine nuclear exercises as part of this wider nuclear rhetoric information operation, but ISW continues to assess that Russia is highly unlikely to use a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine or anywhere else,” the think tank assesses.

ISW says that “as part of the wider ongoing reflexive control campaign aimed at discouraging Western governments from supporting Ukraine” the Russian MFA also summoned the British and French ambassadors, claiming that it was in connection with recent statements by British Foreign Minister David Cameron asserting that Ukraine has the right to strike military targets inside of Russia and due to French leadership’s “belligerent statements and the growing involvement of France in the conflict in Ukraine,” in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent calls for expanded Western security assistance to Ukraine.

Russia likely summoned these ambassadors to discourage France and the UK, and by extension the rest of the West, from providing further support for Ukraine,” ISW noted.

Read also:

You could close this page. Or you could join our community and help us produce more materials like this.  We keep our reporting open and accessible to everyone because we believe in the power of free information. This is why our small, cost-effective team depends on the support of readers like you to bring deliver timely news, quality analysis, and on-the-ground reports about Russia's war against Ukraine and Ukraine's struggle to build a democratic society. A little bit goes a long way: for as little as the cost of one cup of coffee a month, you can help build bridges between Ukraine and the rest of the world, plus become a co-creator and vote for topics we should cover next. Become a patron or see other ways to support. Become a Patron!

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here

You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter

Please leave your suggestions or corrections here

    Euromaidan Press

    We are an independent media outlet that relies solely on advertising revenue to sustain itself. We do not endorse or promote any products or services for financial gain. Therefore, we kindly ask for your support by disabling your ad blocker. Your assistance helps us continue providing quality content. Thank you!