Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday September 22, 2022
Putin flirts again with grim prospect of nuclear war – this time he might mean it
“This is not a bluff.”
The message from Vladimir Putin’s ominous morning speech, which marked the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since the invasion on 24 February, was clear: Russia is willing to use nuclear weapons if Ukraine continues its offensive operations.
While the longtime Russian leader has previously flirted with the grim prospect of using nuclear weapons, experts say his latest statements went further, raising fears around the world of an unprecedented nuclear disaster.
Addressing the nation on Wednesday, Putin confirmed he was planning to annex four partly occupied regions of southern and eastern Ukraine after this weekend’s Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums”.
He added that he was prepared to use “all means” to defend the “territorial integrity” of the Russian-occupied lands and their people.
“Putin’s statements go beyond the Russian nuclear doctrine, which only suggests Russian first use in a conventional war when the very existence of the state is threatened,” said Andrey Baklitskiy, a senior researcher in the Weapons of Mass Destruction and other Strategic Weapons Programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
Ukraine, which has been making rapid military gains over the past few weeks, has stressed that it will continue its efforts to liberate occupied lands, with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, stating on Wednesday that referendums will “act step by step to liberate our country”.
This means Putin’s resolve will probably be tested in the coming weeks.
Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian politics, also said Putin’s nuclear threats were unprecedented but questioned whether the Russian leader was willing to go through with his threats, which would de facto mean nuclear war.
“It’s glib to assume anyone claiming they are not bluffing is bluffing, but the credibility of a threat to risk thermonuclear Armageddon if Ukrainian forces continue to move in territories still Ukrainian by law is questionable.”
Instead, Galeotti argued, the apocalyptic threats could have been intended to force the west and Ukraine into accepting Russia’s territorial gains in the war.
Zelenskiy, in an interview with the German newspaper Bild on Wednesday, likewise said he did not believe Putin would use nuclear weapons. “I don’t think the world will allow him to use those weapons,” he said.
The Ukrainian leader, however, did not rule out the possibility of a Russian nuclear strike, saying “we can’t look into Putin’s head”.
For millions of Russians, the most worrying takeaway from Putin’s speech will be that they and their loved ones could soon be fighting and dying for their president’s illusory aims. (The Guardian)
From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro …