Moscow’s mindset

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Moscow seems to be in a bizarre mindset. Having waged a war over Ukraine to check the eastward expansion of NATO, and after literally annihilating its next-door neighbour, the Kremlin is now apparently thinking loud. Dmitry Peskov’s off-the-cuff observations that his country might use nuclear weapons if its existence is threatened is not only disturbing, but also reflects nervousness of sorts. The Russian spokesperson has simply upped the ante, and provided West with an opportunity to galvanise efforts in armament which could lead to an accidental clash. But all said and done Dmitry has in one way or the other hinted at the factor of deterrence too, as nukes are merely best when on the shelf and not when loaded on delivering arsenal.

The Kremlin’s spokesperson, nonetheless, has talked tongue-in-cheek. By referring to his country’s National Security Doctrine, he has made a valid point. The Russian policy dilates that “if faced with an existential threat, then the nuclear arsenal can be used in accordance with (security doctrine) concept.” In other words, it won’t be a knee-jerk reaction on such a vital issue. There is much to read between the lines, and one is sure that security wizards in the United States and Europe will figure it out as to what is the rationale behind this loud-mouthing. The Kremlin has, in fact, invoked Clausewitz concept of warfare, wherein “war is a duel on an extensive scale…intended to compel the opponent to fulfil (one’s) will.” In other words, the West should watch its steps and let Russia go on with its agenda of fortifying its eastern flank by marching over Ukraine.

Setting aside jingoistic narrative, this crisis is now more than a regional fissure. The war in Ukraine possesses the potential of exploding into a world war, and polarisation of the globe is already evident. It is adversely impacting supply of energy to Europe, and food prices are spiraling as Ukraine, the grain-basket of Europe, is under bombardment. Notwithstanding the stated positions of major powers, including China, the need of the hour is to defuse the crisis and come up with an immediate ceasefire. Talks of use of nukes are brinkmanship and unwarranted.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2022.

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