The US and NATO at a nuclear crossroads
- NDC Policy Brief 02-2023: The US and NATO at a nuclear crossroads, by Michael Cohen*
Experts have debated the conditions under which Russia would use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine. Most agree that Russian nuclear use cannot be ruled out. How, then, should the US and NATO proceed in the face of such danger? Russia has not explicitly directed nuclear threats against NATO; however, since the very beginning of the war Russian President Vladimir Putin has engaged in nuclear sabre-rattling to deter the West from directly intervening in Ukraine. A low yield nuclear strike against Ukraine – or a non-NATO member – could quickly escalate and draw Allies into the war. Russian nuclear threats have thus unsettled the alliance, and more broadly weakened the nuclear taboo shared by a large majority of nations.
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* (back) Senior lecturer at the Australian National University. He was PaG fellow at the NATO Defense College from September 2022 to January 2023.