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The Financial Express

Ukraine war becoming clash of nuclear egos


Ukraine war becoming  clash of nuclear egos

With the Western powers hell-bent on seeing that Russia is defeated in its ongoing campaign in Ukraine, the Kremlin has also upped the ante by reiterating its threat of using its unspecified weapon of the ultimate kind. The latest of such a grave warning to the Western powers has come from Russian president Vladimir Putin while he was speaking to some Russian lawmakers in the country's northern city of St Petersburg last Wednesday. In Putin's words, the warning, to quote BBC, went like this: "We have all the tools (to respond) that no one can boast of. And we will not be bragging about them, we will use them if necessary".

This is coming from the head of a nation that holds one of the world's largest arsenals of nuclear weapons. And there is little doubt that Putin had in mind such weapons of mass destruction when he was issuing his threats. The Russian president must have been aware of what he was saying and he was also not using such dangerous threats for the first time. Is he serious, or is it pure diplomatic brinkmanship? For he must be aware that the US, its staunchest and strongest adversary, also possesses the kind of weapon he has been alluding to. And he should also know that in case Russia ever opts for such ultimate weapon there will also be retaliation, to use his own words, 'lightning fast'. And even a child of today knows what he is talking about. It is about, to use the Cold War era phrase to describe such an eventuality, 'mutually assured destruction' or MAD. And everyone knows that there is no winner in such a war.

While the experts and theorists on the game of war are scratching their heads over what Putin really wants to mean by his repeated threats of the extreme kind, the situation is turning from bad to worse.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at a summit of the Western powers in Germany has promised to move 'heaven and earth' to ensure Ukraine's victory in the war.

True, Russia has not been faring well in this conventional war and that armed with Western military and financial aid the Ukraine resistance is growing in strength every passing day to the extent that it has of late been making occasional forays into the Russian mainland.But this is obviously a red line being crossed. Clearly, theWestern powers are gloating at Russia's apparently humiliating retreat from Kyiv. And now in the war's eastern theatre in the Donbas region, too, the Russians seem to be struggling. And the West definitely has enough intelligence report from the war field to have led the US defence secretary to see the prospect of Ukraine ultimately winning the war. Or is it?

Are the Western leaders convinced that Putin is going to show them a clean pair of heels in the face of the setbacks on the conventional warfront in Ukraine? But they need to get a few of the facts straight.

For they must be aware that Putin from the very beginning of the Ukrainian engagement has been warning the West of the dire consequences in the event of their interference in the war. For, he knew from the start that he will not be able to fulfil his mission to disarm or even occupy Ukraine, if the NATO powers intervene. But his worst fears have now come true.

It is exactly against this backdrop that the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov  had recently warned that the Ukraine conflict was escalating into a third world war and that NATO was engaged in a proxy war with Moscow by supplying Kyiv with weapons.

So, what other option is Kremlin left with to save its face? History has ample instances of such a close call. Brinkmanship or not, there is hardly any scope for taking a chance.

At this point, we have the history of 1962's Cuban missile crisis before us. The nuclear faceoff between the-then Soviet Union and USA, thanks to the coolheaded decisions of then US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, could finally be averted from spiralling into a full-scale nuclear war. But how could that happen? Because there was the scope for constant communication between the leaders of the two Cold War-era superpowers.

And at that time with the nuclear catastrophes in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fresh in memory there was an urge among the world leaders to stop any possibility of a nuclear war.

By now the memory of a calamity of the nuclear proportions seems to have dimmed and with it priorities too appear to have changed.

Moreover, the era of dual superpowers has been replaced by one of the lone superpower.

Though in nuclear capabilities, the present Russia and the US are evenly matched, yet, the former does not command the kind of respect it enjoyed in its heyday as a superpower.

But Vladimir Putin's Russia, at least by dint of its enviable nuclear arsenal, if not in terms of conventional weaponry, wants to be respected as a superpower.  Yet heedless of Putin's warnings, the West has been arming Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine is fast slipping into a clash of nuclear egos.

It is important at this moment that the US president Joe Biden and the Russian president Vladimir Putin are on speaking terms. Then all should desist from using strong language against one another.

 

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