Fear paralyzes us. Fear weakens us. Fear prevents us from looking at things clearly. And there is nothing that we are more afraid of than a nuclear war, which Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening once again. Because this could mean our ruin, apocalypse — the end.

This fear about the existence of the planet and humanity can be expressed in numbers: According to recent polls, 58% of the US population is scared that Russia is heading for nuclear war as is 49% of people living in Germany.

Politicians, military officers and experts have been clenched with fear for some time already. Political scientist and Putin expert Gerhard Mangott of the Austria's University of Innsbruck has warned on German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that if Ukraine continues to gain territory and the West continues to supply it with modern weapons, Putin will be left only with "nuclear escalation," and this is "increasingly likely" if Russia goes on the defensive.

DW journalist Joscha Weber

What makes more sense than wanting to prevent the worst from happening? And if necessary, by making concessions to Putin? But this would be the worst of all options. If the West were to give in to Putin's nuclear blackmail, it would lose all the way.

Ukraine would have to accept considerable territorial losses, Eastern European countries would rightly question whether the European Union and the US have their back and NATO could simply scrap its deterrence strategy.

In short, Putin would have won. And he could use this tactic again, as US historian Timothy Snyder of Yale University concluded in a widely acclaimed essay: "[…] Giving in to nuclear blackmail won't end the conventional war in Ukraine. It would, however, make future nuclear war much more likely."

Fear is always a bad advisor especially in such situations. Resoluteness, unity, and strength are needed to resist atomic blackmail. If necessary, one's own arsenal should be mentioned.

Deterrence has to be credible and consistent; as anything else only serves to embolden Putin. This is what happened in 2013, when US President Barack Obama drew a "red line" on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. When it was crossed by the country's Russia-backed ruler Bashar Assad, the West did not intervene directly in the war.

This also happened in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea in violation of international law while the West merely looked on. Both cases probably encouraged Putin to attack Ukraine this year.

Fear is exactly what Putin wants to generate with his hybrid warfare that combines military weapons, energy and disinformation. Though it is justified to be concerned about a nuclear catastrophe, it is also important to keep a cool head. By doing so, we will recall that Putin has been threatening to use nuclear weapons since the beginning of the war — but he has yet to take steps to mobilize nuclear forces.

Moreover, a marginalized nuclear power will not necessarily press the red button. Neither the Soviet Union nor the US did so during their disgraceful operations in Afghanistan and Vietnam respectively.

One of the main reasons for this is often overlooked: A nuclear aggressor will automatically be a loser. Afterwards, it will not be able to do anything with a contaminated territory, nor will it have many allies left. In this case, China, India and other states would turn away from Russia, something that is already beginning to happen it seems. Domestically, such a strike against the brother nation that Russia is supposed to be liberating would probably cost the president legitimacy and support.

So, never fear. Putin himself has too much to lose.

This op-ed was originally written in German.

QOSHE - The West must not give in to Putin's nuclear threat - Joscha Weber
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The West must not give in to Putin's nuclear threat

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15.10.2022

Fear paralyzes us. Fear weakens us. Fear prevents us from looking at things clearly. And there is nothing that we are more afraid of than a nuclear war, which Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening once again. Because this could mean our ruin, apocalypse — the end.

This fear about the existence of the planet and humanity can be expressed in numbers: According to recent polls, 58% of the US population is scared that Russia is heading for nuclear war as is 49% of people living in Germany.

Politicians, military officers and experts have been clenched with fear for some time already. Political scientist and Putin expert Gerhard Mangott of the Austria's University of Innsbruck has warned on German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that if Ukraine continues to gain territory and the West continues to supply it with modern weapons, Putin will be left only with "nuclear escalation," and this is........

© Deutsche Welle


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