The Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said in an interview with Polish radio station RMF FM that NATO would have a “conventional response” to a possible Russian nuclear attack on Ukraine. When asked whether NATO troops would enter Ukraine, Rau said this could not be ruled out. However, he added that conventional weapons such as aviation and missiles do not necessarily have to be launched from Ukrainian territory.
Such a stance is not only shown in the speech of the Polish minister, but also by the U.S. military. A retired U.S. general who still maintains close ties with the military also stated a few days ago that the West’s response to Russia’s use of tactical nuclear weapons may include NATO’s war intervention, such as the establishment of a no-fly zone in the Baltic Seas. In reality, these pre-announced response measures are insufficient to prevent the outbreak of a nuclear war but may stimulate it instead.
In fact, the earlier speech by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had the same implication. He threatened that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s use of nuclear weapons would meet with “catastrophic consequences”, but declined to specify what it means. This kind of intimidating language will not work at all for a sophisticated geopolitician like Putin. If the U.S. and Russia really reach some kind of secret agreement in the future, it will not be because of Sullivan’s threats, but because of some specific concessions and compromises.
Putin does not fear that war might break out on Russian soil. He is not even afraid of missiles and bombs attacking Moscow and Saint Petersburg. He might believe that the casualties of Russian civilians will only inspire Russians to unite against the West and the United States. This set of political games is familiar to him, but may not be so to the inexperienced politicians in the West and the U.S.
The biggest problem and flaw in the response measures considered by the West and the U.S. is the generalization of the use of nuclear weapons. It is tantamount to acknowledging that nuclear weapons can be used as ordinary tactical weapons, just like normal missiles and bombs. They fail to understand there are huge strategic and political risks, as well as serious consequences if nuclear weapons are used arbitrarily. This is not just nuclear proliferation, it is the proliferation of nuclear war.
According to the theory of nuclear equilibrium, the generalization of nuclear weapons is actually the change of attitudes towards nuclear war, where the threat of nuclear weapons to human existence is artificially and unrealistically weakened through the political strategies of turning a blind eye to it. At the same time, it also reduces the strategic deterrence of nuclear weapons. From now on, the world will enter an era of nuclear war. The mutual retaliations by using nuclear weapons could last until the world itself is destroyed.
Nuclear equilibrium has created a nuclear stabilization mechanism that has been effective for decades. This mechanism forces the participants to be cautious, or else there will be the annihilation of each other. However, now the cowardly politicians and amateur military strategists in the West, just because they lack the needed wisdom and are entrapped in the current challenges. They hastily modify the rules of the game, trying to change the threshold and allow more nations to participate in this nuclear gambling, which will inevitably form an unprecedented and extremely dangerous situation. Perhaps this is what Putin is waiting for.
The world is now at a critical geopolitical moment, a technical decision-making moment. If the great powers and their politicians do not have the courage to respond professionally, it will only encourage the proliferation of nuclear war in this world.