The EU’s warning to Putin’s nuclear threat in Ukraine: “It will be such a powerful response militarily that the Russian Army would be annihilated” – La Tercera

The head of European Union diplomacy, Josep Borrell, warned on Thursday, during a ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, that Russian troops would be “annihilated” by the EU, NATO and the United States if Russian President Vladimir Putin makes good on his threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. This is the first time that a senior European official has specifically spoken about the response that the West would give to a possible atomic attack by the Kremlin.

Formally, NATO has not yet threatened to use its nuclear arsenal to respond to Russia, since Ukraine is not a member of the military alliance and is therefore not covered by its self-defense clause. But Borrell’s response was categorical: “A nuclear attack will have an answer. Not a nuclear response, but a response so powerful militarily that the Russian Army would be annihilated,” he warned. According to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Putin “assures that he is not lying (about the threats) and that he now cannot afford to brag.” He added that “those who support Ukraine (the EU and its member states, the US and NATO) are not bluffing either.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, on October 13, 2022. Photo: AP

For his part, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that such a scenario, even with the use of small atomic weapons, would have “serious consequences”. “Russia knows it. I won’t go into the details of our response now, but it would clearly fundamentally change the nature of the conflict,” Stoltenberg said at NATO headquarters.

Stoltenberg reiterated that NATO “saw no signs that Russia has changed its nuclear posture, but we monitor it 24/7,” adding that this has been done “for decades.”

The use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict would mean “crossing an important line”, said the former Norwegian prime minister, who said that even if Moscow limited itself to using “small” weapons, this would have “consequences”. “We take these threats seriously. We remain vigilant and we will not be intimidated, ”he stressed.

Regarding the type of reaction that the Atlantic Alliance would give, Stoltenberg indicated that NATO’s nuclear weapons are used in very specific scenarios. “The rationale of NATO’s nuclear deterrence is to preserve peace and prevent aggression and action against allies. The circumstances in which NATO would use nuclear weapons are extremely remote,” he stated.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell attends a meeting of the European Political Community in Prague, Czech Republic, on October 7, 2022. Photo: Reuters

In this regard, Stoltenberg confirmed the NATO nuclear exercises that will begin next week with the participation of 14 allies, assuring that they are “routine” maneuvers that were already scheduled before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The exercises will take place more than 1,000 kilometers from the border with Russia and will last until October 30.

“They serve to ensure that NATO’s nuclear capabilities remain safe, secure and effective,” the Allied Secretary General defended. Sources quoted by Europa Press explained that the maneuvers will consist of training flights over Western Europe and the North Sea. “Its goal is to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe and effective. It is an opportunity to test and improve our strengths. This exercise is a routine, recurrent training activity and is not linked to world news”, they indicated.

Last week, interview with Third, the Ukrainian Chargé d’Affaires in Chile, Vladyslav Bohorad, expressed his fear of the possibility that Putin would resort to his nuclear arsenal. “The threat of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine is high. Russia could launch attacks, likely targeting locations along the front lines, where large numbers of personnel and equipment are deployed, as well as critical command centers and critical infrastructure,” he said.

A Russian Iskander-K missile launched during a military exercise at a training ground in February. Photo: AP

However, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, in an interview broadcast on CNN on Tuesday, when asked about how realistic he thought it would be for his Russian counterpart to use a tactical nuclear weapon, replied: “Well, I don’t think it would be possible. make”.

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But Biden made it abundantly clear that he was sending a public message to Putin about the dangers of thinking of using a lower-yield tactical nuclear bomb as an isolated event. “What I am talking about, I am talking to Putin. He, in fact, cannot continue with impunity to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon as if it were something rational,” the US president said, before warning of the dangerous consequences of such a move.

“Mistakes are made, miscalculation could happen, no one can be sure what would happen and it could end in Armageddon,” Biden said, reemphasizing that a nuclear explosion with thousands of deaths could lead to events out of control. .

According to Reuters, tactical nuclear weapons are often characterized by their size, their range, or their use for limited military purposes. They are often referred to as “non-strategic weapons,” in contrast to strategic weapons, which the US Army defines as designed to attack “the enemy’s warfighting ability and will to war,” including manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation and communication, and other objectives.

Launch of a Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from an airfield during military exercises. Photo: AP

Tactical weapons, by contrast, are designed to achieve more limited and immediate military objectives that win a battle. The term is often used to describe weapons with a lower “yield” or the amount of energy released during an explosion.

They are usually many times larger than conventional bombs, cause radioactive fallout and other deadly effects beyond the explosion itself, and there is no agreed size that defines tactical weapons, the news agency details.

Tactical weapons, he adds, are often mounted as missiles, air-dropped bombs or even artillery shells that have a relatively short range, much less than the huge intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) designed to travel thousands of miles and strike targets. across the oceans.

Last March, Francesca Giovannini, executive director of the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, told Third that the use of nuclear weapons could not be completely ruled out. “The probability of using a tactical nuclear weapon to ‘break’ the backbone of the Ukrainians is not zero. I’m not saying it’s likely right now, but it’s certainly plausible in the medium to long term. What will determine the outcome is the duration of the escalation and the increasing costs that Putin will have to pay,” the expert explained at the time.

Vladimir Putin watches the Vostok 2022 military exercise in Russia’s far east, outside Vladivostok, on September 6, 2022. Photo: AP

But if Putin finally decided to use this type of nuclear weaponry, it would not necessarily ensure victory in the war. François Heisbourg, defense adviser to the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, told The Wall Street Journal in September that using a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield would produce “a big explosion and actually relatively few military advantages. Ukraine is dispersing its forces and there are no large concentrations of troops to attack. In the meantime, Russian forces would have to push through the radioactive fallout to gain an advantage, he noted.

This week’s heavy Russian bombardment of Ukraine suggests that the Kremlin is at least determined to step things up with kyiv. With the West too? “He is trying to avoid a direct confrontation with the West, but at the same time he is prepared for it,” believes veteran Russian liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky. “What I fear most is the possibility of a nuclear conflict. And secondly, I am afraid of endless war,” he told the BBC.

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