Russia’s Nuclear Warning is an Act of Desperation From Putin, Which Makes it Even More Dangerous

Photograph Source: Jaume Escofet – CC BY 2.0

The decision by President Vladimir Putin to put Russia’s strategic nuclear forces on high alert is even more dangerous than it looks because it is an act of desperation. The nuclear threat is a reminder that Russia is still a great power to be feared, despite its multiple failures since it invaded Ukraine last week.

The invasion may only have happened last Thursday, but Russia is already weaker in the eyes of the world because it has not achieved its objectives. Its army has failed to take the larger Ukrainian cities and Ukrainian resisting has blocked the Russian advance on almost all fronts. Pictures of the smouldering wreckage of Russian armoured vehicles fill television screens nightly.

The Russian campaign plan apparently assumed a Blitzkrieg advance against negligible opposition, swiftly eliminating the Ukrainian political and military leadership. Mindless wishful thinking is the only reason why Putin could have imagined that an army of only 190,000 soldiers, many of them non-combatant cooks, drivers and the like, would be able to seize and occupy a country three times the size of Britain.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).