- Ukrainian military officials said a “limited” nuclear war with Russia can’t be ruled out.
- In an op-ed, they wrote that a nuclear conflict raises the possibility of World War III.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown it “neglects” the concept of global nuclear security, the officials wrote.
Ukraine’s top military officials warned on Wednesday that that a “limited” nuclear war with Russia — which could potentially trigger World War III — can’t be ruled out as fighting continues.
Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and Lt. Gen. Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, who serves as the first deputy chair of the Ukrainian parliament’s national security, defense, and intelligence committee, shared their thoughts on the six-month-long conflict in an op-ed published by the country’s state news agency Ukrinform.
The duo wrote that one factor worth considering in Russia’s approach to the war is the underlying threat of tactical nuclear weapons usage, arguing that Russia’s unprovoked invasion has shown that it “neglects” the concept of global nuclear security, as has been demonstrated by its actions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and around Chernobyl.
“It is hard to imagine that even nuclear strikes will allow Russia to break Ukraine’s will to resist,” Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi wrote. “But the threat that will emerge for the whole of Europe cannot be ignored.”
They cautioned that the “possibility of direct involvement of the world’s leading powers in a ‘limited’ nuclear conflict, bringing closer the prospect of World War 3, cannot be completely ruled out either.”
The two officials said the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons means Russia would no longer be a threat to just Ukraine and a handful of European countries, but it would become a “global-scale terrorist state.”
With Russia facing heavy troop losses in Ukraine and struggling to make significant gains in the war, Western officials have repeatedly warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could turn to nuclear weapons if he gets desperate enough.
“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” CIA Director William Burns said in April.
“We’re obviously very concerned. I know President Biden is deeply concerned about avoiding a third world war, about avoiding a threshold in which, you know, nuclear conflict becomes possible,” Burns said.
Putin placed Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert shortly after the invasion, and the US has accused the Russian leader of “nuclear saber rattling.”
“It’s engaging in reckless, dangerous nuclear saber rattling, with its president warning that those supporting Ukraine self-defense ‘risk consequences such as you have never seen in your entire history,'” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of Russia last month.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in early August that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
“The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more,” the UN chief said, warning that crises with “nuclear undertones” were “festering” worldwide — explicitly citing the “invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”