Share and Follow
Vladimir Putin could resort to deploying nuclear weapons in his war against Ukraine if the Russian despot feels his forces face defeat on the battlefield, a retired US Army Brigadier General has warned.
Kevin Ryan, who served as Chief of Staff for the Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command, said nuclear war is an ‘entirely feasible’ option for Putin if Ukrainian forces make gains on the battlefield and even retake captured territory like Crimea.
Ryan, who also served as the Defence Attaché to Russia, said Moscow is not just at war with Ukraine, but with the West too – and it’s for this reason Putin is much more likely to see the use of tactical nuclear weapons as ‘prudent deterrence’.
‘The exploding of a nuclear weapon inside Ukraine may seem like “overkill” in a war against Ukraine, but in a war against the West, it could be seen as prudent deterrence,’ Ryan tells MailOnline.
‘The bottom line is that the use of a nuclear weapon is entirely feasible and the negative outcomes could be dismissed if the alternative is defeat.’
He says that if Ukrainian forces do begin to make gains on the battlefield, Putin and his military leaders wouldn’t be phased about the prospect of irradiating territory inside their occupied lands with tactical nuclear weapons.
These nuclear weapons can have yields of up to 100 kilotons – five times the amount of the American atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
A Russian Iskander-K missile launched during a military exercise at a training ground at the Luzhsky Range, near St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2017
Kevin Ryan, who served as Chief of Staff for the Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command, said nuclear war is an ‘entirely feasible’ option for Putin if Ukrainian forces make gains on the battlefield and even retake captured territory like Crimea. Pictured: Iskander missile launchers
‘As far as Russia irradiating territory that is inside their occupied lands is concerned, I think Russian leaders would weigh that against losing a war – or against losing Crimea or a large part of their own army,’ Ryan says. ‘That’s not a bad trade in those cases for Russia.’
Ryan says that the only reason why Putin has not deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Ukraine yet is because Kyiv’s much-anticipated counteroffensive is stalling ahead of a second winter.
Ukrainian soldiers have been unable to make significant gains against Russian troops who are entrenched in captured territory during their counteroffensive and casualties on both sides – already in the hundreds of thousands – continue to mount.
‘The only reason we haven’t seen tactical nuclear weapons is because Ukraine’s counteroffensive hasn’t been as successful as hoped,’ Ryan says.
Indeed, Putin has warned since launching his full-scale invasion of Ukraine that Moscow is ready to use ‘all available means’ to fend off attacks on Russian territory deemed existential – a reference to its nuclear arsenal.
Russia is thought to have around 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons – compared to America’s 100 – which include bombs that can be carried by aircraft, warheads for short-range missiles and artillery rounds.
The tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted to long-range missiles that are capable of obliterating cities.
Moscow views them as a way of compensating for NATO’s strength in advanced conventional weapons since the Cold War.
‘Although the West has relied more on conventional weapons since the end of the Cold War, Russia has had to continue to rely on tactical nuclear weapons to be prepared to achieve battlefield goals,’ Ryan says.
‘That’s largely because Russia has been not been able to modernise its conventional forces satisfactorily.’
‘The bottom line is that Russian military leaders see tactical nuclear weapons as a valid and useful escalation tool,’ Ryan says. ‘So does Putin.’
Indeed, Russia has in recent years raised the threshold on their use of nuclear weapons in its security doctrine – from ‘situations critical for the national security of the Russian Federation’ in 2000 to the more precise ‘aggression involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat’ in 2014.
For Putin, that would be losing territory such as Crimea which would in turn threaten the despot’s position of power.
And Ryan warned that Ukraine is just ‘the first battlefield’ of Putin’s war with the West, pointing to how Putin is preparing Russia for a ‘larger conflict’ with the movement of troops and nuclear weapons into Belarus.
Ukrainian soldiers of the 57th Brigade prepare the explosive artillery charge, in their fighting position, in the direction of Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, on November 27
Ryan, who also served as the Defence Attaché to Russia , said Moscow is not just at war with Ukraine, but with the West too – and it’s for this reason Putin (pictured on November 29) is much more likely to see the use of tactical nuclear weapons as ‘prudent deterrence’
Officials in Moscow and Minsk have said that the warheads sent to Belarus could be carried by Belarusian Su-25 ground attack jets or fitted to short-range Iskander missiles.
‘The West has not fully awakened to the reality that we are in a war with Russia,’ Ryan says. ‘Countries like Poland and the Baltics believe Putin’s words and actions and think we are at war.
‘But the US, UK and much of NATO? I think they believe this is only a war between Russia and Ukraine – one where we can be on the side-lines helping.’
Indeed, the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, which has a 673 mile border with Ukraine, will allow Russian aircraft and missiles to reach potential targets there more easily and quickly if Moscow decides to use them.
It would also extend Russia’s capability to target several NATO members in Eastern and Central Europe with the tactical nuclear weapons, which Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said were around five times more powerful than US atomic bombed dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
‘Ukraine is the first battlefield of Putin’s war with the West,’ Ryan warned. ‘There is evidence that Russia is preparing itself for a larger conflict than what is happening in Ukraine.’
He pointed to how Putin has ordered his military to increase to over 1.5 million active duty troops by 2026, increased his military budget to $109 billion for 2024, and moved troops and nuclear weapons into neighbouring Belarus.
‘This suggests that Putin is doing more than just replacing losses in his “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine,’ Ryan says.
Putin and his cronies have warned for months that the war in Ukraine could turn into a nuclear war. The Russian despot warned in June that ‘there will be no winners, including America’ in a Third World War.
Putin said in a thinly veiled threat: ‘The United States pretends not to be afraid of an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, but sane people there clearly do not want to take this to a Third World War.
‘In the event of a Third World War, there will be no winners, including America.’
And earlier this year, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, warned that attempts by Ukraine to reclaim control over Crimea in its counteroffensive was a ‘threat to the very existence the Russian state’ – something that warrants a nuclear response under the country’s security doctrine.
‘Every day of supplying Western weapons to Ukraine makes the nuclear apocalypse closer,’ Medvedev said at the time.
Ukrainian military analysists have said that Putin’s goal is to discourage Ukraine’s Western allies from providing Kyiv with more weapons during their counteroffensive by using ‘nuclear blackmail’.
But Ryan says the West must provide Ukraine with more weapons that would mean Kyiv wins a ‘decisive’ victory over Russia. To that end, Ryan says Ukraine must be made a member of NATO for the nation – and the West – to achieve their goals of a Ukraine that is ‘sovereign and free’.
‘We need a Ukraine that is inside NATO and the EU, as a bulwark against the malicious actions of a Russia under the control of Putin and his acolytes,’ Ryan says.
‘The goals [of Ukraine being sovereign and free] will not be won at the negotiating table,’ he adds. ‘They must be asserted by Ukraine and the West and protected with military power.’
‘We should not delay Ukraine’s admission to both NATO and the EU,’ Ryan insisted. ‘If we fail to achieve our goals against the Russia we face today, we will be harder pressed to achieve them against the Russia that Putin is building.’