The sheer embarrassment at the Kremlin today is likely at its most prescient level in modern history, as Vladimir Putin continues to experience defeat after defeat, seven months into an invasion that he believed would last 72 hours at the onset.
Just this week, Russian forces were pushed all the way back to their own borders in Eastern Ukraine, signaling that Moscow’s military might very well need to prepare to lose this war.
It is the desperation present in this sort of inevitable defeat that has one former US commander worried that Putin may turn to nuclear weapons on his way out the door.
Retired US Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, a former defense attaché to Russia and senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said he’s now even more worried about the potential for Putin to tap into Russia’s sizable nuclear arsenal because of Ukraine’s rapid regaining of territory in a lightning counteroffensive that began less than a month ago.
“I have been thinking about the pressure Putin must be feeling to do something dramatic — which causes me to think again about nuclear triggers,” Ryan told Insider.
Ryan said that if the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk asked for accession into Russia and were accepted, it would mean “the fighting that is currently going on in Ukraine will suddenly be ‘in Russia.'”
Russia’s own military doctrine allows for Moscow to authorize the use of nuclear weapons should there exist a threat to the existence of Russia itself, and there it little doubt that the already-humiliated Putin could massage these events to fit that criteria.