Why the US rejected the tactical nuclear weapons that Putin could use – Corriere.it

Vladimir Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons on the Ukrainian front?

What are the pros and cons, according to the analysis of American experts?

It was precisely the Pentagon the first to believe in the usefulness of tactical nuclear weapons in a conflict: small, with a fraction of power compared to the Hiroshima atomic bomb, therefore really tiny compared to the next generation nuclear devices that can destroy entire cities. Still capable of emitting radiation, with a deadly impact on health, in the short and long term.

Tactics, because they can be used on the battlefield against enemy troops. The Americans conceived them mainly from the point of view of a European conflict, in which the superiority of the Soviet Union in conventional armaments would allow the Red Army to spread to Europe, and the US would have to retreat. In that context, the use of tactical nuclear weapons targeted against attacking troops could have slowed or blocked the Soviet invasion. Some analogies can be seen here with the current situation on the ground in Ukraine, where they are Kiev troops to recapture territories, while the Russian ones are in retreat. The eruption of nuclear power could reverse the situation, perhaps. At least in Putin’s hopes.

The American doctrine I was referring to was elaborated in the 1950s, at the beginning of the Cold War. One of the first to analyze the repercussions was Henry Kissinger in a famous essay from 1957. The Pentagon for fin per to reject the usefulness of tactical nuclear weapons. The prevailing reason was the impossibility of making a surgical, precise and controlled use. Radiation, above all, is at the mercy of the winds. And the winds blow as they please, so they can push the radiation away from the combat zone, towards population centers. Or – even worse from a military point of view – the winds can push the radiation back against the same armed forces that have used tactical nuclear power.

If I throw a devastating weapon at the enemy and then that inflicts damage on my soldiers, the toll is disastrous for me too. Strictly speaking, the Americans had a reason to believe in tactical nuclear power since their national territory is separated from Europe by a vast ocean. But they too had (and have) troops stationed in Europe, tens of thousands of potential targets of that tremendous boomerang effect linked to the whims of the winds. Therefore in the strategic doctrine of the Pentagon the tactical nuclear weapons were the subject of a critical reviewand their arsenals were downsized.

The same logic should lead us to think that Putin is bluffing. Russia, unlike the United States, has a large land border with Ukraine. The radiation emanating from the use of tactical nuclear weapons could haunt Russian soldiers, and even Russian cities. The memory goes to the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986: the winds carried radiation from Ukraine to Russia more than in any other country.

Just the precedent of Chernobyl however it introduces an element of caution. By invading Ukraine, the Russian military leaders also sent troops to the Chernobyl area, which is still contaminated. Those Russian soldiers sent to Chernobyl lacked adequate protection against radiation damage. This precedent may indicate that Putin could sacrifice his own as martyrs to the mercy of radiation in order to pursue his own goals.

Among these objectives, the geopolitical expert Walter Russell Mead points out one in particular on Wall Street Journal Today: Putin has so far been frustrated by his inability to use Russia’s fearsome nuclear arsenal to translate it into proportional political weight in international affairs. He wants to restore to his country the same superpower status that the USSR had at the height of its parable. Extracting significant concessions from the West through nuclear blackmail – writes Mead – would be an important step towards regaining the role that the Soviet Union had in the world.

October 4, 2022, 17:15 – change October 4, 2022 | 17:16

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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