Be careful what you wish for in Russia’s defeat in Ukraine

Be careful what you wish for in Russia’s defeat in Ukraine

Western pundits, analysts, and even militaries are trumpeting Ukraine’s recent counter-offensive in the war with Russian federation. To be sure, this is a blow against the growing authoritarian axis.  

But there are hazards that many appear to be ignoring. Russian doctrine allows for using nuclear weaponry when its position on the battlefield can be threatened.   Furthermore, on a bureaucratic level, there are a variety of Russian institutions that will find it difficult to accept military defeat in Ukraine.  

Likewise, with an individual level, Ruskies President Vladimir Putin may be unable to abide by defeat.  

Each of these variables may interact with various other variables in unpredictable ways, increasing the chances of miscalculation or accident, which could also lead to nuclear use, even when unintended.   Lastly, if Crimea is necessary, the peninsula is one that each side views as a vital attention, thus increasing the possibility of nuclear use by Russia.

Risks of escalation

In their excitement over seeing Russia penalized for its aggression, Western observers may be missing the dangers of escalation. If Russia is constantly on the take losses over the battlefield, one would expect conventional escalation, probably culminating in full-scale mobilization by Russian federation as well as more pronounced support from Cina.  

The less likely, but a lot more impactful, escalation would be nuclear escalation. Even though this remains unlikely at this juncture, the chances of such escalation have increased since Ukraine started to drive Russia back. There are a variety associated with reasons nuclear escalation is more likely right now than it was this morning.

Russian nuclear doctrine

Russia’s nuclear doctrine enables nuclear use to end conventional conflicts.  

Write-up IV of the Basic Principles of the State Policy of the Russian Federation “provides for the prevention of the escalation of military actions and their particular termination on circumstances that are acceptable for that Russian Federation and its allies. ”  

Though declaratory policy is not always a guide for employment policy, this nevertheless provides justification for the use of nuclear weapons to end a conventional conflict.

Russia’s nuclear weapons could come into perform if its prospects turn drastically around the battlefield. Photo: AFP

Bureaucratic interests

A lot of institutions in Russia would be undermined simply by defeat in Ukraine. Most obviously, the particular Russian military will be weakened by any loss in Ukraine.

But likewise, the Government Security Service (FSB), probably the Main Cleverness Directorate (GRU – military intelligence), and perhaps the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), miscalculated grievously.

Each has some share of the blame for the misguided operation and each has incentive to end the operation upon terms favorable to Russia. Additionally , weapons manufacturers and purchase groups have a lot to lose. All of these companies have reasons to seek a decisive end to the war.


Chief executive Putin has every single reason to attempt to take victory from the jaws of defeat. Not just is this his war, but he is a dictator in fact if not name. Dictators usually do not survive humiliating battlefield defeats.  

Given the way Putin has shamed and murdered opponents, he should suspect that decisive defeat in Ukraine might make him the particular scapegoat.  

The oligarchs will need him out so they could resume plundering Russia. The generals would want him out so as to direct blame elsewhere. There are many who would seek vengeance or even need to deflect blame.  


Another reason Putin cannot accept beat in Ukraine is that it would squander all of the fear he integrated reasserting Russian manage in Georgia, Southern Ossetia, Transnistria, Chechnya, Dagestan, and of course, Crimea itself.  

In fact , a reduction in Ukraine would encourage the people in every these other areas to rise up. Indeed, there is certainly evidence of recent protests in Crimea. Russia cannot manage several uprisings.


These factors are likely to interact in unpredictable ways. For example , losses in one area may encourage instability in other regions.  

Wide-spread unrest or a hen house emanating from one of the aggrieved Russian bureaucracies could encourage some other actors such as the oligarchs to move on the levers of government.  

Greater instability within Russia means control over nuclear weaponry may deteriorate.   Accident or miscalculation could follow, leading to the loss of a weapon or, worse yet, the particular unintended detonation of a weapon.  

These unstable interactions would be multiplied simply by external nuclear risks, even if implicit.

The West

If a nuclear tool were used, the particular West would discover itself in the unenviable position of receiving that use and possibly the particular defeat of Ukraine, or of responding and risking out of control escalation. We have small guidance for what would happen if a nuclear weapon were detonated in anger inside a multipolar nuclear globe.  


Finally, Crimea complicates these issues. If Russia were pressed out of eastern Ukraine, this would be a dramatic defeat, but maybe one that Russia can accept. But Crimea, like Taiwan intended for China and the US, is an area exactly where both sides perceive their interests as essential.  

None side can down again. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pointed out he will not take peace until Crimea is back in Ukraine’s hands.  

A grim-faced President Zelensky (left) gets a military briefing. Photo: President of Ukraine

Putin considers Crimea to be part of The ussr and sees it as being under Ukrainian jurisdiction only due to an indefensible decision made by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev almost 70 in years past.  

It appears doubtful that Ukraine could eject Russian federation from Crimea, in case it did, the particular pressure on Russian federation to use at least one nuclear weapon would enhance markedly.  

Nuclear use not likely but increasing

Although nuclear make use of remains unlikely, Ukraine’s battlefield successes make such use more likely than before. Since Ukrainian success grows, so does the particular pressure for The ussr to escalate.  

Once an individual nuclear weapon is used, we are in uncharted territory. There will be stress on Western declares to respond, which in war games often quickly leads to global catastrophe.