“That’s the funny thing about the nuclear paradox,” a retired intelligence officer, a man who had served in both military and civilian spook units, once said: “Talking about it is just as dangerous as not talking about it.”
And we sure are talking about it a lot lately.
Rightfully so. It would be just as dangerous not to.
The day after 9/11, Vladimir Putin was reportedly the first world leader to call President George W. Bush to offer Russia’s full support in the new global war on terror; then, as a gesture of solidarity and in the interests of mutual security, he stood down a scheduled exercise of his nuclear forces. The same forces that he has now placed on “high alert,” in an attempt to intimidate NATO against intervention in Ukraine—to warn of the strategic implications: the possibility of nuclear war. Tread lightly. You’re moseying through a minefield. An atomic one.
As Putin’s invasion drags on, sapping the strength of his conventional forces, Russia “likely will increasingly rely on its nuclear deterrent to signal the West and project strength to its internal and external audiences,” says Lieutenant-General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in a recent summary of global threats.
But a threat only. For now. A reminder of where a direct clash between NATO and Russian forces would likely land us.