What If Russia Employs Nuclear Weapons?

Is the US on the righteous side of history assisting the Ukraine in its opposition to an unlawful Russian invasion? Considering the reactions and rhetoric of other nations to this point, it seems so. But President Biden must be cognizant of the ramifications of providing diplomatic and military support to the Ukraine government.

It’s outrageous that Russia, without provocation, unleashed a vicious and immoral attack on a sovereign nation. In other situations throughout history, deadly force was used in response to illegal actions against targeted nations. Consider the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. Consider the US response to Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s incursion in Kuwait. In both cases, the preponderance of world opinion was favorable about US actions. But, in both cases neither of the aggressor nations had weapons of mass destruction. And so, they were not an existential threat to mankind.

The responsibilities of the US in its response to Russia are far greater in the current situation. The megalomaniac who leads the Russian Federation has about the same number of intercontinental nuclear missiles at his disposal as the US does. It’s unknown whether one man, Vladimir Putin, can literally push the button and effectively end the world. Are there any fail-safe precautions at play in Russia? Does Putin need concurrence of his cabinet or his generals before deploying WMDs?

America and other nations are providing weapons to the Ukrainians that are enabling the invaded to fight back against the invader. There has been no direct contact between NATO forces and Russian forces. Rather, the West has imposed severe sanctions on Russia and many of its foremost citizens. This is a not so blatant attempt to bankrupt Russia. The sanctions will ultimately prevent Russia from selling enough oil and gas to meet its obligations to its people and its creditors, and they will create great economic hardships for the Russian economy and its citizens.

Are these aggressive moves by the West excuses for Russia to directly challenge NATO, and in particular the US? If we were sure that Putin was in control of his mental facilities, the answer to the question is no. But we are not sure of Putin’s mental stability.

This fact creates a whole new dimension to the conundrum. How far should Biden go in his efforts to thwart Russia? For instance, should the US provide fighter jets and bombers? Should the US provide more powerful surface to air and surface to surface missiles, like the ones that sank a Russian warship? How far can Biden go before Putin decides to take action against the West? And more important, how will Biden respond to the possibility of limited nuclear or chemical arms being used in a confrontation?

This is truly an existential debate. The last thing our world needs is an intercontinental nuclear showdown. Yet, the US and the West cannot stand by and allow any country to invade another country without provocation.

Is the US on solid ground? Even if it is true, does it justify tempting Russia to use its nuclear arsenal?

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