Roger Cohen, a longtime and distinguished columnist of the New York Times and currently the paper’s Paris Bureau Chief, wrote in an interesting column today, “Nuclear Armageddon is not on the table.”
Roger Cohen, “The Limits of a Europe Whole and Free; Vladimir Putin sets down a marker in Ukraine. Does the West have the means to stop him?” New York Times, February 22, 2022.
However, this is far from clear. Looking at Putin’s nuclear threats and both Obama’s and Biden’s responses to them, it would appear that Armageddon is still very much on the table.
If there were any doubt, Putin erased it in a speech today in which set out his justification for the war with Ukraine, and made a hardly-veiled nuclear threat.
Al Jazeera Staff, “‘No other option’: Excerpts of Putin’s speech declaring war
Before launching the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II, Putin addressed his nation,” Al Jazeera, February 24, 2022.
Excerpts from speech:
“As for the military sphere, today, modern Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of a significant part of its capacity, is one of the most powerful nuclear powers in the world and possesses certain advantages in some of the newest types of weaponry. In this regard, no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to defeat and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”
“Now a few important, very important words for those who may be tempted to intervene in the ongoing events. Whoever tries to hinder us, or threaten our country or our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences that you have never faced in your history. We are ready for any turn of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made. I hope that I will be heard.”
In this speech, Putin sets out his justification for launching a war against Ukraine. In a sense, this is the short version of his speech the previous evening. It provides interesting insights into his warped thinking.
What is our current nuclear deterrence doctrine, and how does it apply to a major ground war in Europe started by Russian aggression? Is our doctrine up-to-date, taking the conditions of modern military and cyber warfare into account, or does it need to be reexamined and updated? We should discuss this publicly.