Ukraine war: Could Russia use tactical nuclear weapons?

russian soldier with Iskander missile

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has said he’s ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory, raising the fear he might use a small, or “tactical” nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden has warned him that doing so would be the most serious military escalation since World War II.

What are tactical nuclear weapons?

Tactical nuclear weapons are small nuclear warheads and delivery systems intended for use on the battlefield, or for a limited strike.

They are designed to destroy enemy targets in a specific area without causing widespread radioactive fallout.

The smallest tactical nuclear weapons can be one kiloton or less (producing the equivalent to a thousand tonnes of the explosive TNT). The largest ones can be as big as 100 kilotons.

Strategic nuclear weapons are larger (up to 1,000 kilotons) and are launched from longer range.

By comparison, the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 15 kilotons.

What tactical nuclear weapons does Russia have?

According to US intelligence, Russia has about about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons.

Its tactical nuclear warheads can be placed on various types of missiles which are normally used to deliver conventional explosives, such as cruise missiles and artillery shells.

Tactical nuclear weapons can also be fired from aircraft and ships – as anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and depth charges.

The US says Russia has recently been investing heavily in these weapons to improve their range and accuracy.

Have tactical nuclear weapons ever been used before?

Tactical nuclear weapons have never been used in conflict.

Nuclear powers such as the US and Russia have found it equally effective to destroy targets on the battlefield by using modern conventional munitions.

In addition, no nuclear-armed country has so far been willing to risk unleashing all-out nuclear war by employing tactical nuclear weapons.

However, Russia might be more willing to use smaller tactical weapons than larger strategic missiles.

“They might not see it as crossing this big nuclear threshold,” says Dr Patricia Lewis, head of the international security programme at the Chatham House think tank.

“They could see it as part of their conventional forces.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15, 2020: The first upgraded 203 mm 2S7M Malka self-propelled artillery vehicle delivered by Uraltransmash (a subsidiary of Uralvagonzavod, part of the Rostec State Corporation) to the Russian Defence Ministry. The modernised model shows better performance thanks to a new running gear and improved electronics. Rostec Press Office/TASS (Photo by Rostec Press Office\TASS via Getty Images)
Russian forces can fire small nuclear warheads using conventional artillery, such as the “Malka” self-propelled gun

Are Putin’s nuclear threats a real cause to worry?

In February 2022, shortly before invading Ukraine, President Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces at “special combat readiness” and held high-profile nuclear drills.

More recently, he said: “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without a doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”

Russia is planning to annex the regions of southern and eastern Ukraine it has occupied after holding self-styled referendums. President Putin says he is ready to defend the “territorial integrity” of the regions “by all means.”

US intelligence see this as a threat to the West not to help Ukraine try and retake these territories, rather than as a sign that he is planning a nuclear war.

But others worry that Russia, if it suffers further setbacks, might be tempted to use a smaller tactical weapon in Ukraine as a “game changer”, to break a stalemate or avoid defeat.

James Acton, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Pace in Washington DC, says: “I am legitimately worried that in that circumstance, Putin might use a nuclear weapon – most likely on the ground in Ukraine to terrify everyone and get his way. We are not at that point yet.”

How has the US responded?

US President Joe Biden has warned Russia not to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.

Speaking during an interview with CBS News, Mr Biden said such action would “change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two,” adding: “It’ll be consequential.”

How the US and Nato would respond to any nuclear use is hard to predict. They may not want to escalate the situation further and risk all-out nuclear war but they also might want to draw a line.

However, Russia might also be deterred from using tactical nuclear weapons by another power – China.

“Russia is heavily dependent on Chinese support,” says Dr Heather Williams, nuclear expert at Kings College London.

“But China has a ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine. So if Putin did use them, it would be incredibly difficult for China to stand by him.

“If he used them, he would probably lose China.”

BBC

Afghanistan’s female TV presenters must cover their faces, say Taliban

File photo: In this photograph taken on January 30, 2013 a female Afghan news presenter reads the news at a studio in Kabul.
Image caption,Female presenters – faces uncovered – have become common on screen in recent years

The Taliban have ordered female Afghan TV presenters and other women on screen to cover their faces while on air.

Media outlets were told of the decree on Wednesday, a religious police spokesman told BBC Pashto.

The ruling comes two weeks after all women were ordered to wear a face veil in public, or risk punishment.

Restrictions are being tightened on women – they are banned from travelling without a male guardian and secondary schools are shut for girls.

One female Afghan journalist working for a local TV station in Kabul, who did not want to be named, said she’d been shocked to hear the latest news.

“They are putting indirect pressure on us to stop us presenting on TV,” she told the BBC.

“How can I read the news with my mouth covered? I don’t know what to do now – I must work, I am the breadwinner of my family.”The new decree will take effect from 21 May, Reuters news agency reported, quoting a spokesman for the Taliban’s Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue.

(From August 2021) Female presenters return on Afghanistan’s Tolo News, with one interviewing the Taliban

The spokesman referred to the ruling as “advice” – it is not clear what will happen to anyone who fails to comply.

“Based on information received by Tolo news, the order has been issued to all media outlets in Afghanistan,” the news channel reported.

The decision is being widely criticised on Twitter, with many calling it another step by the Taliban to promote extremism.

“The world deploys masks to protect people from Covid. The Taliban deploys masks to protect people from seeing the faces of women journalists. For the Taliban, women are a disease,” one activist tweeted.

The private Shamshad news channel posted a photo of its news presenter wearing a mask, and other similar images are being shared on social media.

During their first stint in power in the 1990s the Taliban forced women to wear the all-encompassing burka in public.

The hardline Islamist movement was driven from power by US-led troops in 2001, after which many restrictions eased. Women appearing on television showing their faces became a common sight.

After retaking power last August, following the withdrawal of foreign forces, the Taliban had held off issuing new laws on what women should wear.

This raised hopes they would govern Afghanistan, a deeply conservative and patriarchal country, more flexibly this time.

A burka-clad woman and a girl on a street in Kandahar on 5 March 2022
Image caption,The burka was enforced by the Taliban in the 1990s and still worn by many women

Many women still wore the burka, but in bigger cities it was also common to see women continuing to wear headscarves.

However in early May the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue announced that all women would have to cover their face in public, and indicated that a burka would be the ideal garment to achieve this.

Anyone refusing to comply with the ruling risks an escalating series of punishments.

Infographic showing different types of Muslim head coverings for women

Most Muslims around the world do not consider women covering their face mandatory, or oppose them working.

Women are still employed in some jobs in Afghanistan, such as healthcare and education, but many others have been told not to return to work now the Taliban are back in power.

The country has been plunged into economic crisis and famine under Taliban rule.

Western diplomats have indicated that resuming development funding and unlocking frozen cash depends on better treatment of women.

But early hopes the Taliban might relax their approach have been eroded amid signs influential hardliners in the group have the upper hand.

The journalist in Kabul who spoke to the BBC wanted the international community to put pressure on the Taliban.

“They should tell them you have 10 days to change otherwise we are going to cut off relations and aid.”

She said she believed the Taliban planned to stop women doing all kinds of work outside their homes. “They want women to live like prisoners at home. Every day they issued decrees against us – I don’t think we can survive.”

The Taliban are pretending that they are living in the 15th century.

‘Freudian slip’: Bush decries ‘invasion of Iraq’ – not Ukraine

Former US President George W Bush appears to admit the 2003 invasion of Iraq was ‘wholly unjustified, brutal’ in a speech about the Russian war on Ukraine.

Bush
Former US President George W Bush delivers a speech to crew on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln following the US invasion of Iraq [File: Larry Downing/Reuters]

Former United States President George W Bush has decried the “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq” in a gaffe during a speech in the US state of Texas.

The former president, who launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq under the false pretence that the country was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), meant to decry the Russian invasion of Ukraine during the speech in Dallas on Wednesday.

Instead, while criticising Russia’s political system, he said: “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.

“I mean, of Ukraine,” he said quickly.

He then said “Iraq too” to laughter from the crowd.

Several investigations have detailed how the Bush administration relied on faulty intelligence while misleading the public in the lead up to the war, with advocates calling for years for Bush and other officials to be held accountable for what has been called an illegal invasion.

Andrew Stroehlein, the European media director of Human Rights Watch, called the stumble the “Freudian slip of the century”.

Wrote Pouya Alimagham, a modern Middle East historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Wow – the one time Bush told the truth about the invasion of #Iraq.”

Added writer Maris Kabas in a tweet: “If I could tell my 17-year-old self one thing it’s that George W Bush will admit to unjustly invading Iraq in 17 years.”

The US invasion of Iraq, which was officially completed in 2011, has been directly attributed to widespread instability in the country that led to the rise of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.

The UK-based Iraq Body Count Project has recorded as many as 209,422 violent civilian deaths in Iraq since the March 2003 US invasion.

When the initial invasion began, the International Commission on Jurists in Geneva said it represented a “war of aggression” that constituted a crime under international law.

In 2010, a Dutch inquiry, the first-ever independent legal assessment of the war, determined the invasion had “no basis in international law”.

A year later, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission found Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of crimes against humanity for the war. The verdict was not enforceable.

Video of Bush’s comment had been viewed about 10 million times on Twitter early Thursday, with some observers saying the slipup indicated more than just a guilty conscience.

“No but seriously, George W Bush whisperingly affirms his own self-description as launching a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” tweeted Will Greaves, an assistant professor of international relations at the University of Victoria.

“He knows it, and he also knows that he’ll never face consequences even as they’re called for Putin,” he said. “So it’s not funny, it’s impunity.”

‘Russian Rhapsody’ Crazy Merrie Melodies Anti-Hitler Propaganda Cartoon  

Depictions of Russia in American propaganda had some wild vacillation before the Cold War. The first Red Scare followed the Russian Revolution, and anti-communist sentiment really found purchase around 1919. Leftists in the US (many of them immigrants) became a force to be reckoned with, and bitter labor conflicts (plus some radical terrorism) seemed to suggest a Bolshevik revolution was imminent in the Americas. There’s the period however, during World War II, before Truman decided to wave his nuclear dick at Stalin, when Russians were still our Nazi-fighting Allies, and 1944’s Merrie Melodies production “Russian Rhapsody” is a fascinating artifact of that ambivalence America had towards the Soviets.

danger1

Of course, the cartoon doesn’t quite portray Russians as “dignified.” Rather than some cartoon-friendly version of Red Army soldiers fighting Nazis in the snow, they’re literal “gremlins”—tiny things that are only really capable of sabotaging a plane. (The title was originally “Gremlins from the Kremlin,” but Disney was developing an animated version of Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins at the time and Roy Disney pressured Warner Brothers to change the name.) Regardless, the gremlins are clearly the good guys, whipping out a mask of Stalin to frighten Der Führer.

danger2

In addition to being a really beautiful (and profoundly weird) piece of animation, “Russian Rhapsody” has some great dog whistles. The cartoon starts out with Hitler delivering a speech that’s a direct reference to a scene from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. As an inside joke, some of the gibberish German Hitler spouts is actually the names of animators and studio staff. The gremlin faces are actually based on caricatures of Warner Brothers legends like Chuck Jones, Robert Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Leon Schlesinger. The berserk musical score was provided by the great cartoon composer Carl Stalling.

American Idiots

The idiot above committed one of the greatest geopolitical blunders in history. The Iraq invasion in 2003 was uncalled for and completely unnecessary. Saddam was no threat to the U.S. The invasion and subsequent war cost tens of thousands of lives and caused that area of the Middle East to headlong into chaos, extreme hardship and indescribable violence . The invasion is still felt in the region to this day.

Green Day released this song in 2005.

This idiot attempted a coup D’etat against the fairly elected president of the United States in 2021. He continues to say that he actually won the 2020 presidential election without any concrete evidence whatsoever. He also pulled the United States out of climate agreements and a nuclear deal with Iran. He imposed tariffs on friendly countries and harshly criticised and slandered NATO. He also divided the American nation like no other president. His lies have created a deep ideological rift within the very fabric of American culture and society. Let’s hope and pray that this idiot fades away and gets sequestered into a deep cesspool within American history.

North Korea launches ballistic missile at North America

After doing some bad methamphetamine, Kim Jong Un and his brown nosing generals decide to hit the U.S. with their new long-range missile the KN-08. The intended target was either Los Angeles or San Francisco according to RAND Corporation analysts.

koreax

The missile guidance system fails, as predicted by Stephen Colbert, and lands a thousand miles to the north. The missile and its nuclear warhead land in southern Alberta, Canada. Barley missing blowing up a herd of 10,000 black Angus cattle.

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It is time Canada gets on board with the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense system.

North Korea: Soldiers smash bricks, bend iron rods in combat display

North Korean state media has aired footage of soldiers putting on a display of their combat prowess and ability to smash various objects with their bare hands.

The performance was staged at a defence exhibition in Pyongyang, and watched by leaders including Kim Jong-un.

Besides destroying bricks and tiles, soldiers were seen lying on beds of glass shards and iron nails, with concrete slabs sledgehammered to bits onto their bodies.

The finale showed men bending iron rods with their necks and breaking out of chains.

North Korea media said it was to show enemies that their soldiers had “iron fists to protect the peace of the country”.

Though it goes without saying, it’s probably best to avoid trying any of these stunts at home.