Decoding Russia’s Nuclear Threats over Ukraine
Decoding Russia’s Nuclear Threats over Ukraine
Podcast / Global 1 minutes

Decoding Russia’s Nuclear Threats over Ukraine

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s Europe & Central Asia Director Olga Oliker to discuss Russia’s nuclear menacing over Ukraine and whether the war could tip into a nuclear confrontation.

Since Russian forces crossed en masse the Ukrainian border a month ago, the war has been overshadowed by Moscow’s nuclear menacing. Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled threats of nuclear escalation as a way to deter other governments coming to Ukraine’s aid. He also announced he was placing Russian nuclear deterrence forces on “high alert”, though the meaning of that is not entirely clear. Recent proclamations by Russian officials that Ukraine might use biological and chemical weapons add to concerns that Russia is laying the ground for its own use of such weapons. 

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director, discuss the significance of Russia’s nuclear threats and what they aim to achieve. They talk about Russia’s nuclear doctrine and widespread perceptions in Western capitals about its “escalate to de-escalate” policy. Olya also runs through Moscow’s failure to conquer Ukraine quickly in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance, backed by Western arms supplies, and what that might mean for the Kremlin’s calculations. They talk about the potential dangers of greater NATO involvement, scenarios that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons, what that would mean and ways of minimising risks of a catastrophic nuclear confrontation. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ukraine country page and make sure to read our recent statement, “Avoiding an Even Worse Catastrophe in Ukraine” and Olga’s recent piece for Foreign Affairs, “Putin’s Nuclear Bluff”.


Executive Vice President
Program Director, Europe and Central Asia

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