Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, in response to U.S. aid to Ukraine and American-led international sanctions on Russia, has hurled threats to the West, suggesting his country’s use of nuclear weapons was on the table.
“To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history,” Putin said, soon after launching his invasion of Ukraine in February.
“All the relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.”
Would Russia lob a nuclear weapon at the U.S. mainland?
I’m certain the thought has crossed the minds of Russian leaders because their military is having tremendous difficulty in Ukraine thanks in part to the sophisticated weaponry the United States is supplying Russia’s rivals.
In fact, it’s fairly safe to assume America’s ‘proxy’ participation in the war has created a nightmare for Russia. And as a result, Putin is getting more desperate by the day and looking for ways to force the U.S. to back off.
So, what if Russia launched a warning nuclear weapon, hitting Washington, DC, New York City, London, Paris, or Kyiv?
How would NATO respond to a lone, single warhead nuclear strike?
Don’t expect World War 3 right away and don’t expect NATO to immediately flatten Russia with its own nuclear weapons. Everyone is fully aware of where a full-scale nuclear war would lead and, to the chagrin of some, a level of restraint would be used in NATO’s response.
Cooler heads would prevail…at least initially.
Expect NATO to immediately and successfully use conventional weapons to annihilate the site where the nuke was launched as well as other military targets. NATO’s air power alone would quickly decimate a significant portion of Russia’s forces and military infrastructure, likely ending Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in the process.
… And Russian leadership understands that.
Instead of nuclear weapons, look for Russia to employ (another) major cyberattack against the U.S. and / or its allies.
In fact, earlier this week the European Parliament website faced a “sophisticated” cyberattack disrupting its services moments after members voted to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
“We have a strong indication that it is from Killnet, the hackers with links to Russia indeed,” said Eva Kaili, Greek member and vice president of the European Parliament, via Politico.
And in May 2021, top U.S. fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline shut its entire network, the source of about 50 percent of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel supply, compliments of a sophisticated cyberattack that involved ransomware.
If you live on the East Coast, you probably remember as it caused quite a panic.
Biden Administration officials said they believed the attack was the act of a criminal group, experts, even then, surmised Russia was directly responsible for the attack or that the Kremlin hired a loosely affiliated group to do its dirty work.
Of course, the U.S. couldn’t retaliate against Russia because the technical complexities made it nearly impossible to link Russia to the attack. And Putin, quite naturally, denied any Russian involvement. But regardless of who was responsible, whoever shut down the Colonial Pipeline succeeded in causing an alarming level of hysteria on the East Coast rather quickly.
Putin would love nothing more than to generate mass chaos and instability in the US in an effort to distract the American government from his unprovoked war in Ukraine.
And not only is that possible (as we’ve seen), he could do it without repercussions (as we’ve seen).
America and its allies, more than at anytime before, must heavily secure all of its critical infrastructures such as gas lines, water systems, and power grids.
What happened last year exposed our cyber vulnerabilities and gave us a small taste of what we should expect if an enemy gained access to any of our critical infrastructures.
For Russia, cyberterrorism, and not nukes, would be the more practical option for weakening the U.S. and its allies.
… And if I know that, rest assured they know it – and a lot more.