Over the course of the last seven months, the world has gotten a rather jarring look into the true “might” of the Russian military, and what they’ve seen has shocked them to the core.
Russia, once feared as a military superpower on the world’s stage, rolled into Ukraine as a dysfunctional and unmotivated mess. The fresh-out-of-bootcamp soldiers that arrived in Ukraine were tricked into the invasion, and began deserting the Russian army as soon as their old Soviet military equipment began breaking down.
Then came the crying phones calls to mom made by captured Russians. And then reports that Kremlin soldiers were shooting themselves in the legs to get sent home.
The sheer ineptitude of the Russian machine has forced the army into ever-less-tenable positions as well, with many units now resorting to terrorism, rape, and genocide to make advances.
And, of this continues to fail to tamp the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people, there is little doubt that Russia may turn to nuclear weapons.
“There is a direct threat of the use, under certain circumstances, of tactical nuclear weapons by the Russian armed forces,” the Ukrainian commander in chief, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny wrote in an article published by Ukrinform, a state-run media outlet. “It is also impossible to completely rule out the possibility of the direct involvement of the world’s leading countries in a ‘limited’ nuclear conflict, in which the prospect of World War III is already directly visible.”
Zaluzhny also acknowledged for the first time that Kyiv was behind strikes deep inside the Russian-occupied Crimea Peninsula in August. The air bases and ammunition depot that were hit were in areas previously thought to be out of range for Ukraine — but were part of its strategy to shift “the Russian Army’s center of gravity,” Zaluzhny wrote.
There were other nuclear concerns as well.
Zaluzhny’s warning follows weeks of international alarm over a potential disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear facility, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine. Russian authorities control the plant, with more than 1,000 Ukrainian workers trying to keep it running and hooked up to their country’s power grid despite frequent shelling.
The U.N. atomic watchdog agency on Tuesday called for a safe zone there to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he supported the idea if it meant Russian troops would leave. Each side has accused the other of firing rockets and heavy artillery around the plant.
Zaluzhny said Russia’s use of the plant as a military base showed its disregard for global nuclear safeguards “even in a conventional war.”
Russian pundits have also raised the possibility of a tactical nuclear strike, and worldwide experts have warned that Moscow’s military doctrine is far more lax about the use of atomic weapons than many western nations would imagine.