Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

In this image taken from video released by the Russian Presidential Press Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, September 21. (Russian Presidential Press Service/AP)

The fact that the United States is forced to warn Russia publicly, and in more strident terms privately, not to use nuclear weapons shows how dangerous the battle for Ukraine has become – and how it could become more risky.

The war is in a new critical phase. Kyiv forces have won victories in the east using billions of dollars in Western-supplied weaponry, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded by sending thousands more troops to the front lines.

Facing mounting political pressure at home, isolation abroad and humiliation on the battlefield, the Russian leader stepped up his nuclear approach last week, warning he could use all nuclear weapons systems. weapons at his disposal if he considered the territorial integrity of Russia threatened.

Putin’s rhetoric served as a reminder that the longer the war goes on for Ukraine, the more the West will have to keep its cool, especially if the Russian leader becomes more locked in and tries to scare off his enemies with Russia’s best leverage. – its nuclear arsenal.

Many Western observers believe that Putin is bluffing and that there are strategic reasons for Moscow to stop before this fateful step. There are no public reports that the Kremlin is preparing its stockpile of battlefield nuclear weapons for use or that it has changed its international strategic missile posture. And Putin has already played the nuclear card in the conflict in an apparent effort to scare Western audiences and sever support for Kyiv in the transatlantic alliance.

But at the same time, the Russian leader has thrown himself fully into a war he cannot afford to lose but which is going increasingly badly for Russia, as shown by the partial national mobilization of the last week. He is in a corner, a reality that may explain his return to nuclear scare tactics. And while Putin’s political position doesn’t seem immediately threatened, he faces growing dissent at home and seems consumed by a fury against the United States and the West that is vehement even for him.

Putin is led by a sense of historic mission rooted in a desire to restore respect for Russia as a great civilization. He has already shown callous indifference to human and civil life in Ukraine. Such conditions mean that clear strategic thinking and rational decisions cannot be taken for granted, especially since the ruthless Russian leader’s sense of caution has let him down with his reckless leadership of the war in Ukraine.

You can read Collinson’s full analysis here.

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