Moscow unlikely to use nuclear weapons, say ex-Russian generals

Russia is unlikely to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine unless NATO puts boots on the ground, two retired Russian generals have told Al Jazeera.

“If the collective West attacks Russia with its conventional armed forces, then Russia’s response could very well be nuclear since there is no comparison between the West’s conventional military potential and that of Russia,” said Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired lieutenant general who served as the Russian military’s top arms control negotiator from 2001 to 2009.

However, Buzhnisky stressed that Russia had little to gain from using nuclear weapons in Ukraine under the present circumstances.

He argued that the Russian military did not need nuclear weapons to achieve its strategic objectives, such as destroying transport infrastructure used to deliver Western arms shipments or damaging the country’s electricity network.

Mutual destruction

At the same time, Buzhinsky warned that initiating a nuclear attack would almost certainly put Moscow and Washington on a dangerous escalating spiral.

“There can be no limited use of nuclear weapons – to think otherwise is an illusion,” he said.

“Any nuclear conflict between Russia and the United States will lead to complete mutual destruction.”

A similar assessment was given by Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired lieutenant general who spent more than 40 years working in the Soviet and Russian foreign intelligence services.

Reshetnikov told Al Jazeera that the prospect of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine was “impossible and would make little military sense” right now.

He argued that such a move would be a sharp deviation from the risk-averse strategy that Russia has pursued in Ukraine so far, noting that the Kremlin waited nearly seven months before declaring a partial mobilisation.

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