What would actually happen if Putin hit Ukraine with tactical nukes?

Written by Peter Weber

Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised the specter of a nuclear attack on Ukraine several times since invading the country in February 2022. Those threats grew more frequent as Ukraine started beating Russia on the battlefield, and Europe and the U.S. stepped up their military assistance to Kyiv. Putin’s illegal annexation of an area of eastern and southern Ukraine roughly the size of Portugal raised the risks, since Russia — and Russia alone — now considers those areas part of the Russian Federation.

The humiliating setbacks in Putin’s war, combined with a botched and unpopular military draft, have prompted broad discontent up and down Russian society and open sparring on state-controlled TV. The pressure building on Putin is raising concerns in the West that he may actually use a low-yield tactical nuke in Ukraine — and in fact, at least two prominent and powerful pro-war figures, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin — have openly advocated this path.

What would actually happen if Russia resorts to nuclear warfare in Ukraine? Here’s a look at what Putin would lose and gain, how the West might respond, and how bad it would be for Ukraine.
What kind of nuclear weapon might Putin use?

Putin has lots of options on hand. “Great secrecy surrounds Russia’s arsenal of tactical arms, but they vary in size and power,” and there are believed to be about 2,000 such weapons at Putin’s disposal, The New York Times reports. “For months now, computer simulations from the Pentagon, American nuclear labs, and intelligence agencies have been trying to model what might happen and how the United States could respond” if Putin nukes Ukraine, but that’s “no easy task” given the sizes and varieties of Russia’s arsenal.

Most of Russia’s tactical nukes have “a small fraction of the destructive power of the bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945,” the Times reports. But “the weapon Europeans worry the most about is the heavy warhead that fits atop an Iskander-M missile and could reach cities in Western Europe. Russian figures put the smallest nuclear blast from the Iskander payload at roughly a third of the Hiroshima bomb’s explosive power.”

Read more at MSN

About the author

Peter Weber