Russian think tank proposes ’demonstrative’ nuclear blast to deter Western support for Ukraine

A senior member of a Russian think tank, whose ideas often influence government policy, has proposed a ‘demonstrative’ nuclear explosion to deter the West from allowing Ukraine to use its arms against targets inside Russia.

Livemint, Written By Shivangini
First Published30 May 2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin warns the West against escalating the Ukraine conflict, hinting at severe consequences if Western weapons are used to strike inside Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warns the West against escalating the Ukraine conflict, hinting at severe consequences if Western weapons are used to strike inside Russia.(via REUTERS)

A senior member of a prominent Russian think tank has suggested that Moscow consider a "demonstrative" nuclear explosion to intimidate the West and deter them from allowing Ukraine to use its weapons against targets inside Russia, Reuters reported on Thursday, May 30.

Dmitry Suslov, a member of the Moscow-based Council for Foreign and Defence Policy, made the proposal shortly after President Vladimir Putin warned that NATO members in Europe were "playing with fire" by proposing to let Kyiv use Western weapons to strike deep inside Russia. As quoted by Reuters, Putin indicated that such actions could trigger a global conflict.

Ukraine's leadership argues that it needs the capability to strike Russian forces and military targets inside Russia with long-range Western missiles to defend itself and prevent air, missile, and drone attacks. The report added that this view has garnered some support among Western countries, though not from Washington.

Russia, which has the world's largest nuclear arsenal, has warned that allowing Ukraine to strike inside Russia would be a grave escalation, potentially drawing NATO and involved countries into direct conflict with Moscow and increasing the risk of nuclear war.

Suslov, whose think tank has been praised by Putin and whose ideas sometimes influence government policy, suggested that Russia must act decisively to deter the West from crossing a red line.

"To confirm the seriousness of Russia's intentions and to convince our opponents of Moscow's readiness to escalate, it is worth considering a demonstrative (i.e., non-combat) nuclear explosion," Suslov wrote in the business magazine Profil. “The political and psychological effect of a nuclear mushroom cloud, which will be shown live on all TV channels around the world, will hopefully remind Western politicians of the one thing that has prevented wars between the great powers since 1945 and that they have now largely lost – fear of nuclear war,” Suslov wrote according to Reuters.

Suslov's proposal is the latest in a series of similar suggestions by Russian security experts and lawmakers. It has raised concerns among Western security experts that Russia might be inching towards such a test, which could usher in a new era of major power nuclear testing.

There was no immediate comment on Suslov's proposal from the Kremlin, which has stated that Russia's nuclear policy remains unchanged. However, the Kremlin signalled its displeasure with increasingly aggressive Western rhetoric on arming Kyiv earlier this month by ordering tactical nuclear weapons drills.

Suslov also suggested that Russia initiate strategic nuclear exercises, warn any country whose weapons are used by Kyiv to attack Russia that Moscow reserves the right to strike that country's targets anywhere in the world, and caution that it could use nuclear weapons if that country retaliates conventionally.

In November, Putin signed a law withdrawing Russia's ratification of the global treaty banning nuclear weapons tests, a move intended to align Russia with the United States, which signed but never ratified the treaty. Russian diplomats have said that Russia, which has not conducted a nuclear test since the Soviet era, would not resume testing unless Washington does.

The Soviet Union last conducted a nuclear test in 1990, and the United States last did so in 1992. North Korea is the only country to have conducted a nuclear test this century.

Earlier this month, Russia warned Britain that it could strike British military installations and equipment both inside Ukraine and elsewhere if British weapons were used by Ukraine to strike Russian territory. This warning followed British Foreign Secretary David Cameron's statement that Kyiv had the right to use UK-supplied weapons to strike targets inside Russia.

(With Inputs from Reuters)

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