According to officials, there is a “very high” chance that Russia may employ tactical nuclear weapons as it tries to make up for recent battlefield defeats as The Washington Examiner reported.
Large tracts of terrain were recently reclaimed by the Ukrainian military in an operation, which compelled Russian President Vladimir Putin to issue a “partial mobilization” order to gather more troops for the conflict.
By making that choice, the Kremlin appears to be acknowledging a personnel issue that could make the deployment of nuclear weapons more appealing.
“They will likely target places along the front lines with lots of [army] personnel and equipment, key command centers, and critical infrastructure,” Ukrainian deputy intelligence chief Vadym Skibitsky told the Guardian.
Skibitsky added further
“In order to stop them, we need not just more anti-aircraft systems, but anti-rocket systems. But everything will depend on how the situation develops on the battlefield,” Skibitsky said.
Although Ukrainian leaders have signaled to their partners that they won’t be deterred by a nuclear strike, the most recent Ukrainian assessment lends some credibility to the Western concern that Ukrainian success could result in making a desperate effort to salvage victory out of a defeat.
“They will not stop fighting, anyway. That’s what they are [saying] to us,” a senior European official told the Washington Examiner, before saying that the Ukrainians have indicated they would respond to a nuclear strike with increasing operations against Russian territory.
“This will not stop them, and then they will spread the fighting, also. At the moment, they are rather conservative [about] hitting targets on Russian soil,” the European official said.
As Ukrainian attacks in Russia have mostly concentrated on Russian supply depots close to the current battle zone, such a decision to expand the war’s scope into further Russian territory would mark a key turning point for Kyiv.
According to this official, the Ukrainian interpretation of the situation is that since Russia lacks the conventional troops to defend those other territories, a counteroffensive would punish Putin for using nuclear weapons in a way that may leave him with few alternatives for retaliation.
“There are not significant fortification lines on [Russia’s] own soil because they have calculated that the Ukrainians are not intruding there,” the senior European official said. “So if Russia thinks that they [can] start to use tactical nukes against Ukrainians, and Ukrainians are spreading the fight into Russian soil.”