Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons if his nation’s “territorial integrity” is threatened has been widely denounced, and rightly so. But paradoxically, it is a sign of Russian weakness, not strength.
As Ukrainian forces regain ground occupied by Russia and the Russian military continues to struggle with respect to morale, logistics, and battlefield competence, the danger that Russia might fall back on its nuclear forces as weapons of last resort grows. Putin says he’s not bluffing, but a number of Western analysts have argued otherwise, asserting that his statement is mere bluster. But the potential risks are too great to put that proposition to the test.
Providing Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend itself while holding back on supplying long-range systems that are capable of striking targets deep in Russia – as the Biden administration has been doing – makes sense.