Kremlin Accused of Using Nuclear Blackmail in Ukraine Conflict

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.07 - 2024 8:36 AM CET

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Photo: Kremlin
Photo: Kremlin
The Kremlin uses nuclear blackmail to influence the West's decisions regarding Ukraine, according to a recent report by the ISW.

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The Kremlin is reportedly engaging in a renewed campaign of reflexive control, using nuclear threats to influence decision-making processes in the West, particularly regarding Ukraine.

This strategy was detailed in a recent report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Manipulation Through Reflexive Control

Reflexive control is a tactic designed to manipulate an adversary’s perceptions and decisions through targeted rhetoric and information operations.

According to ISW analysts, this approach is integral to Russia’s hybrid warfare strategy, aiming to advance Moscow’s strategic goals.

"Russia has frequently used nuclear saber-rattling during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine to coerce the West, which Russia identifies as its adversary, to cease providing military support to Ukraine. This nuclear saber-rattling has become a form of Russian reflexive control," the report stated.

Timing Threats with Western Decisions

Russian officials play a crucial role in this strategy by timing nuclear preparedness exercises and issuing vague threats of nuclear retaliation.

These actions are often synchronized with key political decisions by Western countries regarding the war in Ukraine, intending to coerce them into reducing their support for Kyiv.

The resurgence of nuclear rhetoric, particularly around the timing of new Western weapon supplies to Ukraine, appears to be a deliberate tactic by Russia.

"Russian officials are likely using the nuclear information operation to dissuade Ukraine's Western partners from providing military support and to intimidate Western politicians," the ISW report stated.

Routine Nuclear Exercises

Despite the routine nature of Russian nuclear exercises intended to support this rhetoric, the ISW maintains that the actual use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine or elsewhere remains highly unlikely.

In response to these developments, Russia has announced plans to conduct training soon to "increase the readiness of non-strategic nuclear forces to perform combat missions."

Meanwhile, officials in Washington have labeled the Russian leadership's rhetoric as irresponsible, though they have not observed any indications of preparations to use nuclear capabilities in the conflict.

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