Putin ‘more likely’ to use battlefield nukes than ballistic missiles amid nuclear war fear

Britain would be 'targeted' in nuclear warfare says Ben Judah

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New satellite images near Kyiv have revealed a miles-long convoy of Russian tanks dispersing into nearby forests and artillery moving into fixed positions. The images, It has been suggested, show a possible sign that Putin’s forces are planning a fresh attack on the capital. Far from the main attack targets elsewhere in the country, local authorities have said Russian strikes have hit areas near airports in the western Ukrainian cities of Ivano-Frankivsk and Lutsk.

It suggests that Putin is now spreading his focus with a view to capture the entire country.

Much of the West continues to supply Ukraine with military equipment in order to fend off Russia’s army — the largest force of any European nation.

But Putin has warned Europe to stay out of the conflict with the threat of all-out nuclear war.

Late last month, he placed Russia’s nuclear force on high alert, a move widely interpreted to be in response to the suffocating sanctions imposed by governments around the world.

Many, like Aubrey Immelman, associate professor of psychology at the College of Saint Benedict, Saint John’s University, argue that the Russian President is unlikely to engage in fully-fledged nuclear warfare, as he does not appear to possess the psychological disposition that would push a leader to act in such a way.

Prof Immelman, who has profiled political leaders from around the world and their psychologies — including Putin — said he was more likely to use battlefield nukes in Ukraine than the potentially devastating intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

He told Express.co.uk: “We know based on the many writings on Putin’s personality and his want of expanding the old empire, what his attitudes are.

“But, to what extent do these attitudes predict attitude-consistent behaviours, which would imply by any means possible to achieve his objectives?

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“I think there’s a behavioural predisposition, maybe a behavioural intent, but I do not think he’s delusional enough to use ballistic nuclear missiles and definitely not ICBMs — but that’s just speculation.

“There’s some talk of him using tactical battlefield nukes, I guess that would be slightly more likely but I would be very surprised if Putin went that far, just because of the risks it would entail.”

Battlefield nukes are designed to be used on a smaller scale than their larger counterparts — on the battlefield or for a limited strike.

These warheads can be fitted to cruise missiles, torpedoes, or bombs to obliterate things like bunkers, naval bases, or air defences.

While powerful, their blasts are typically smaller by a factor of 60 or more compared to Russia’s ICBMs, some of which carry multiple thermonuclear warheads.

In recent months, Putin has made several thinly veiled threats over Russia’s nuclear capabilities.

In early February, during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, he hinted he would be willing to press the big red button after he said: “Russia is a military superpower and a nuclear superpower.

“There will be no winners and you will be drawn into this conflict against your own will.”

But some say he may be bluffing in his warnings, suggesting he views the nuclear card as a way to deter any western or European direct involvement in Ukraine.

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Avril Haines, director of Office of the Director for National Intelligence, said she believed Putin was mostly “signalling” to keep NATO from intervening in Ukraine.

She said: “He is effectively signalling that he’s attempting to deter and that he has done that in other ways.

“For example, having the strategic nuclear forces exercise that we indicated had been postponed until February, again, then as a method of effectively deterring.”

The most recent threats are not the first time Putin has rattled his nuclear arsenal.

In 2014, during his invasion of the Crimean peninsula, Russian leaders talked openly about putting nuclear weapons on alert.

A year later, Russia threatened Danish warships with nuclear weapons if Denmark joined NATO’s missile defence system.

Experts say Putin has grown apt at using his nuclear repertoire as a tool to remind the West that Russia is still a great power.

Moscow’s arsenal includes 537 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers.

It possesses approximately 6,000 nuclear warheads as of 2022 — the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world.

Nearly half of the world’s 12,700 nuclear weapons are owned by Russia.

By comparison, the US has about 5,400 of them.

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