US President Joe Biden’s historic mission is now clear — shepherding the world through the most alarming nuclear brinkmanship since the darkest days of the Cold War.
All of Biden’s other challenges — from high inflation, Covid-19, climate change and the building showdown with China — pale against the peril posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fresh escalation of the war in Ukraine.
Putin’s implied threat that he could use nuclear weapons, delivered in a speech on Wednesday — and his warning that he was not bluffing — made Biden’s own speech at the UN General Assembly seem all the more grave.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state and Ukrainians’ right to exist as a people,” Biden said, branding the invasion as a direct assault on the rule-based order epitomized by the UN.
“That should make your blood run cold,” he added.
Putin’s announcement of a partial national mobilization is being seen outside Russia as an admission of failure for his Ukraine operation so far, and of rising domestic political pressure. But forthcoming referendums in captured Ukrainian territory on joining Russia, that are described by the West as a sham, take the war to a tense new stage.
If these areas do join Russia, Ukrainian attacks on them using Western arms could in theory be interpreted as an assault on the Russian motherland itself.
This potentially makes Putin’s threat to use nuclear arms to defend Russian territory a significant escalation.
The Russian leader is clearly seeking to scare Western publics and to make Washington and allied capitals think again about their support for Ukraine, which has helped turn his invasion into such a disaster.
Putin could well be bluffing about the possible use of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. But then again, maybe he’s not.
Originally posted on September 22, 2022 @ 8:15 am