Russian President Vladimir Putin fully committed to his new role as world enemy number one on Wednesday, ordering the mobilization of Russian reservists and bringing the threat of the nuclear option to the table in the same speech.
The escalation comes as Russia’s invasion loses gas in Ukraine, facing manpower shortages and territorial losses. “Russia will use all the instruments at its disposal to counter a threat against its territorial integrity – this is not a bluff,” stated Putin in a national address. Russia’s mobilization, the country’s first such action since World War 2, would call up 300,000 reservists and specialists for Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine.
Why the threat of nuclear weapons?
In his speech, Putin claimed that NATO powers supported the use of nuclear weapons against his country and that attacks on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power plant were actually carried out by Ukrainian forces. “To those who allow themselves such statements, I would like to remind them, Russia also has many types of weapons of destruction, the components of which in some cases are more modern than those of the countries of NATO,” he said.
What are the chances of him deploying nukes?
As for Putin waving around the nuclear option, experts remain skeptical. “The nuclear threat has been taken seriously from the outset, but you have to combine taking it seriously with not being intimidated by the mere mention of nuclear weapons,” said Matthew Harries, director of proliferation and nuclear policy at the Royal United Services Institute. Others believe Russia might use a smaller nuke on a key battlefield in Ukraine instead of launching a larger intercontinental missile.
In response to the reserve mobilization, Russia’s western neighbors look to be forcing the country to deal with the repercussions of its actions. Both Latvia and Finland have stated that any Russians fleeing the country would not be welcome in either nation. While both independent and state surveys still show that a majority of Russians support the invasion, enthusiasm for the annexation of Ukraine seems to have waned, especially since the annexation of Crimea eight years ago.