As the Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on, the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, has been threatening the rest of the world.
The basic threat is that if we don’t stand back and let him do what he wants, he’s going to go nuclear. Whether that means an all-out nuclear war of tactical nukes targeted at whichever country raises his ire at that particular moment.
Either way, one tactical nuke could easily lead to an all-out nuclear war, especially if it exploded in a member country of the NATO alliance.
NATO was created to protect western Europe from invasion by the former Soviet Union. While that political body no longer exists, the Russian Federation is its successor.
Putin, who was part of the KGB, dreams of a return to the glory days of the defunct empire, and his attack on Ukraine seems to be a step in his campaign to make that happen.
Unfortunately for Ukraine, they aren’t a part of NATO; but several of the countries sending them military aid are.
Should Putin decide that such aid is crossing the line of what neutral countries are allowed to do during war, his response could very well be to attack the offending country with a nuke.
According to the mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty, that attack would require a military response from every member of NATO, including the United States.
That line may have already been crossed, with countries sending military hardware to Ukraine.
Worse than that, Jen Psaki, the White House spokesperson, publicly told reporters that the United States was providing intelligence information to Ukraine, something that is considered casus belli, a cause for war, as it constitutes taking sides as a party to the hostilities.
While most Americans support Ukraine in this war, the fact that we are taking sides by providing intelligence information to Ukraine is something that should have been kept secret.
The question which faces us now is whether Putin will push the button. The only thing stopping him is fear of retaliation. That fear may not be all that much, if he thinks that President Biden won’t retaliate.
So, what should we be watching for, to know when Putin is getting ready to push the button?
Signs That Have Already Happened
Allow me to start out with a few very real signs that have already happened.
While these are not as serious as the ones to follow, there is a progression in this process. The fact that these have already happened just means that we are already on the road towards that button being pushed.
Threats of the Use of Nukes
All of this started out with Putin making some rather clear threats about his willingness to use nuclear arms in the current conflict.
Those threats have continued; some openly, while others have been references that were a bit more obscure.
Either way, the message has gotten through and world leaders are taking it seriously.
Putin Going into Hiding
It’s normal for political leaders to go into hiding during a war, as they are prime targets; but if anything, that is even more likely when they are getting ready to launch a nuclear missile strike.
As best we know, Putin isn’t suicidal; so even though he is willing to gamble with the life of his country, he apparently isn’t willing to gamble with his own life or the lives of his family. He has gone into hiding.
There are apparently those who are looking for Putin, either to deal with him as snipers do or to take him prisoner as a war criminal.
One Russian oligarch has offered a million-dollar reward to anyone in the Russian military who takes Putin prisoner, claiming that it is their responsibility to do so.
Raising of the Readiness Level of Russian Missile Forces
About a week ago, Putin raised the level of readiness for Russian nuclear forces, either as an act of brinksmanship or in preparation for using them.
In either case, it means that those forces can launch much faster than they could if they were still at peacetime levels of readiness.
While they are not at their highest possible level, with a finger poised over the button, they’re close.
A Demonstration Attack
The artillery attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, can be seen to be an escalation of hostilities, with nuclear overtones.
There is no way that the plant was targeted accidentally, not in today’s world of computerized weapons and satellite position locating. While Russia doesn’t use the GPS satellite system, they have their own.
I don’t believe in coincidences, so it seems very suspicious that the only reactor that they fired upon, the one that caught fire, was down for maintenance. That indicates some rather current and accurate intelligence information.
Chances of it blowing up were minimal and if an artillery round went long and hit one of the other reactors, they could have claimed it an “accident.”
Signs that are Yet to Come
So far, the signs that we’re seeing don’t indicate that Putin’s finger is poised over the button; but it looks like he’s keeping it near.
Whether or not he decides to push it will depend on his reading of the situation, nothing else. It doesn’t matter so much what the other countries of the world do at this point, as how he interprets their actions.
He has started this war and he’s got to come out of it with some gain or he will lose face, something that he can’t afford and his ego won’t allow.
Raising the Rocket Forces to their Maximum Readiness Level
While Russian nuclear forces are at a heightened alert and readiness level, they are not yet at their highest possible level.
There is still some room for it to go up, something that Putin will want to do, before giving the order to launch. Russia still has a number of liquid-fueled ICBMs.
The fuel used in these rockets is highly corrosive, so it is not stored in the rockets, but rather in nearby tanks. It takes some time to fuel those rockets, once the order is given.
Raising the alert level to the maximum level will also mean fueling those rockets so that they are ready to fly.
If Putin gave the order before fueling them, the attack would be either delayed or carried out in a haphazard manner. Hence the importance of fueling them beforehand.
Putin Cutting Off Communication with Foreign Governments
Anyone who has watched a western knows that there’s a time when the gunmen stop talking and just stare at each other, waiting for the other guy to draw.
While that’s Hollywood’s rendition of things, it is based upon the reality that there is usually a pause before an attack.
When Putin reaches the point where he’s seriously contemplating a nuclear attack, he will stop accepting calls from other heads of government.
On one hand, he won’t want to give away his planned actions and on the other hand, he won’t want to give them the chance to talk him out of it.
There’s also a chance that Putin will break off formal communications with some governments, closing embassies and recalling his ambassadors before attacking.
That’s probably unlikely, as it would telegraph his intentions too well; but if it does happen, we can be sure that his finger is poised above the button and he’s about to press it.
Moving Other Government Leaders Out of Moscow
It’s fairly clear that Putin and his family are out of Moscow in some secret location. Rumor has it that he has a private bunker complex somewhere in the mountainous Altai Republic.
But at the moment the rest of the Russian government is in place and operating.
But the Russians, like our own government, have plans for moving their political leadership out of Moscow in the event of nuclear war.
Putin is likely to make that move, protecting his own government, before ordering the launch.
Moving Russian Troops Out of Harm’s Way
Finally, the last move that Putin will probably make, before launching a nuclear strike, is to move his own forces out of the danger zone.
That would include grounding aircraft, having ships move farther out to sea, and having troops disengage if they are too close to the projected epicenter of the explosion.
It is unlikely that all his troops will be moved, as he still has a conventional war going on; only those who are close enough to the targeted cities will be moved, in order to protect those troops.
That may look like a retreat, but it will be more like the quarterback dropping back before he throws the ball. Those troops will be regrouping, rearming, and preparing to go back on the offensive, as soon as the nuclear part of the attack is over.
You may also like: