Opinion | Even if Putin goes nuclear, the U.S. should avoid joining the war

In Washington, the conventional wisdom is crystallizing that if Russian President Vladimir Putin used a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the United States would automatically become a combatant in the war. “Just to give you a hypothesis,” retired General David Petraeus said Sunday. NATO “would eliminate every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine and also in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea.”

The Pentagon needs to plan for all scenarios, but the case for direct US military intervention in Ukraine is dangerously weak. It was weak at the start of the war, and it will be just as weak when Putin resorts to weapons of mass destruction on his shameful end.

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President Biden’s strategy to avoid direct US engagement in Ukraine – since criticized by hawks Beginning of the war – works. When Russian tanks rolled in February, three outcomes became possible. The first is the one both Putin and the US Secret Service apparently expected: that Russia would quickly overrun the country and Kyiv would fall. The second was a crunching standoff, with the lines of control eventually stabilizing somewhere in eastern Ukraine. The third was an all-out Ukrainian victory.

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The closer Ukraine can get to that third outcome, the better for US interests in the long run. But a nuclear crisis stands in the way. This has always been clear: Russia keeps a vast stockpile of low-yield weapons intended for use on the battlefield in situations it deems vital. which could include failure to hold territories in eastern Ukraine.

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As Russian forces suffer a week-long string of defeats, the prospect of a Ukrainian victory grows ever more conceivable without the United States ever sending its army to the battlefield or its air force to the skies. Saying now that Washington must join the war directly if Putin goes nuclear would make Biden successful Strategy turned on its head. It would mean that the fruit of success is not more American security, but a greater likelihood that the United States will become a combatant in a major war.

From the outset, the Biden administration’s goal has been to provide arms and logistics support to Ukraine and to punish Russia for its aggression without endangering Americans. It did. And if Putin, in desperation, detonates a nuclear device — which would likely have limited effectiveness on the battlefield — the Biden administration can continue its support with increasingly powerful weapons for as long as Ukraine chooses keep fighting.

But any US guarantees to join the war if Putin breaks the nuclear taboo could skew Ukraine’s decision-making. So far, Western officials have said that Ukraine should decide for itself when and whether to seek a ceasefire with Russia. As the country struggling to survive, it is best equipped to know the benefits and risks.

This applies as long as the physical battlefield is limited to it Ukraine. But if a Russian nuclear escalation in Ukraine became automatic Triggering a shooting war between NATO and Russia, as many in Washington now seem to expect, would reduce the risks of war in eastern Ukraine spread across the western alliance like an insurance policy. and Ukraine would take more risk than you would otherwise.

No one can predict how a war with Russia would turn out, but the fundamentals point in a dark direction. Yes, NATO could To attempt to restore nuclear deterrence through use his superior conventional powers to badly damage Russia. But that could lead to it Russia wants to try another round of nuclear escalation. As one analyst noted, nuclear war is “the only level on which Russia is on an equal footing with the United States.” Each round of escalation could narrow the destruction gap between Russia and the West.

A nuclear strike by Russia against it Ukraine would indeed change the world, but the United States’ refusal to directly join the war would not. NATO has refused to bring Ukraine within its defense perimeter. NATO members are also covered under America’s nuclear umbrella Contract partners such as Australia, Japan and the Philippines. The credibility of these guarantees would not be at stake.

What about America’s relationship with Taiwan? Like Russia in Ukraine, Beijing would certainly seek nuclear blackmail in a war over the island. Nonetheless, China poses a greater strategic threat to US strategic interests than Russia, and the fall of Taiwan would jeopardize the US alliance structure in the Pacific. The decision not to fight in Europe does not commit Washington to a course in Asia. It is better to build deterrence through military investments that convince China that the United States would win in a conventional war.

“Justice be done even if the heavens fall” is a law Maxim that cannot be realized in domestic law, let alone in foreign policy in the nuclear age. Restoring all of Ukraine’s territory is just – and NATO should support Kyiv regardless of Putin’s nuclear threats. But as the war draws near to a just outcome, inviting the heavens to fall would be a mistake.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The newest: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed decrees annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine after staged referenda were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The answer: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions against Russia in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said on Friday that Ukraine was requesting “accelerated entry” into NATO in an apparent response to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin on September 21 declared a military mobilization to call up up to 300,000 reservists in a dramatic attempt to reverse setbacks in his war against Ukraine. The announcement prompted an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly conscript men, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine launched a successful counter-offensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled towns and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war, leaving behind large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the war began – here is some of their most impressive work.

How can you help: Here are ways people in the US can support the people of Ukraine, as well as what people around the world have donated.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive videos.

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