Vladimir Putin 'would use a nuclear weapon' in Ukraine before accepting defeat: Retired Army brigadier general
Retired United States Army Brigadier General Kevin Ryan warned on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin may resort to his huge atomic arsenal to avoid defeat in Ukraine.
Ryan, an associate fellow at the Harvard University Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, spent much of his career shaping policy relating to Russia. Speaking with Business Insider, Ryan foresees a consequential year for Russia and Ukraine as the bloody conflict that Putin started on February 24th, 2022 slogs on.
Putin "would use a nuclear weapon before it allowed its military to be defeated in the field," Ryan said, adding that nukes could be Putin's last resort if he views Ukraine as "on the verge of destroying the Russian army in the field."
Ryan based his assessment, at least in part, on Russia's casualties being estimated at around 100,000. Ukraine's are less than half of that. Ryan believes the slaughter is unsustainable, especially when fighting is expected to intensify throughout the spring and summer.
"If the Ukrainian military was having great success in the spring, and was chopping up the Russian military and was threatening taking back Crimea, then I think that the Russian military and leadership would use a nuclear weapon" to "destroy Ukrainian military targets" and "convince Ukraine that continuing to fight this war would leave Ukraine as a nuclear holocaust," said Ryan, noting that Russia's "choices are broad" regarding a nuclear demonstration.
"The level of deaths could approach Hiroshima, or it could be far less if they only intend to fire like a warning shot of a nuclear weapon," he explained.
Russia shattering the nuclear taboo would be a sinister addition to its record of war crimes against Ukrainian civilian populations as well as an act of desperation to force Ukraine into surrender. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – whose defensive forces have the materiel backing of the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization – has repeatedly vowed to never do so.
Ryan also believes that 2023 will be a "pivotal year" for the war because of the "intensity" of the killing, which will "likely not be able to go another 12 months."
While he conceded that he has previously erred in foretelling the future, he nonetheless thinks that "another year would be a good estimate as to when this war might end or reach a stalemate."
This is because "both sides need to inflict more damage and harm on the military on the other side in order for this to come to a conclusion," he said. "Both sides are still too strong to agree to say that they don't have a shot at winning this war. Both armies have a chance at taking more territory, so we have to watch for the next battles to unfold."
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