Foreign Policy Research Institute

+38 (044) 287 52 58

Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

What will be the West’s response to Russia’s nuclear blackmail?

Photo: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin at the talks in Geneva

Source: Reuters

The leadership of the United States of America has been trying to develop partnership relations with the Russian Federation for years. For the sake of this partnership, Washington turned a blind eye to all the illegal actions of Moscow, and since the Russian Federation has not received a proper response, this led to the continuation of an aggressive foreign policy of Moscow. At first, russians destroyed Grozny, brutally resumed control over Ichkeria. Further, in 2008, a few months after the Bucharest summit, where Ukraine and Georgia were denied MAP, Russia attacked Georgia and occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In Syria, the Russians, together with the troops of Bashar al-Assad, repeatedly violated the law of war, in particular, during the destruction of Aleppo and the repeated use of chemical weapons. Contrary to these precedents, Russia's journey from Grozny to Aleppo was not accompanied by isolation, containment of threats, as well as the imposition of harsh sanctions. While the threats of the administration of Barack Obama, which took place during the Syrian campaign, were not carried out. 

Joe Biden's approach to relations with the Russian Federation was initially based on the desire to avoid direct confrontation. The 46th President of the United States of America began a strategic dialogue with the Kremlin and initiated the summit in Geneva in summer of 2021. At the summit, the parties agreed on a further model of interaction, while Joe Biden was not going to cross the red lines articulated by Vladimir Putin. In fact, Ukraine was left in the sphere of influence of the Russian Federation in order to find a compromise with Russia, since the United States wanted to avoid rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing.

However, the search for a compromise and concessions to Russia have not brought the results to the American leadership. The Russian leadership always perceives concessions as weakness and demands more. So it was during the Soviet era, so it is happening today. After the concentration of 200,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, the creation of military infrastructure on the territory of Belarus, the deployment of Iskander ballistic missile systems there, American intelligence was finally convinced of the intentions of the Russian top military-political leadership. According to The Washington Post, this happened in October 2021. In a closed-door meeting, the US president was briefed on Russia's remarkably audacious plan, which could directly threaten NATO's eastern flank or even destroy Europe's post-World War II security architecture. Putin's plans were now far more radical than annexing Crimea in 2014 and fomenting a separatist movement in east of Ukraine. Now the Kremlin dictator was planning to take over most of Ukraine.

When the US shared information with NATO allies and Ukraine, according to The Washington Post, Kyiv and majority of NATO members were skeptical. Berlin and Paris did not believe that Putin could go on an all-out offensive.[1] The Zelensky administration, in turn, firstly, was afraid of the consequences of the panic that could appear, and secondly, they did not understand why the United States does not provide weapons for defense if the intelligence information is really true. The United States, through diplomatic channels, informed Russia of its awareness of the Kremlin's plans and threatened Russia with enormous cost if it invaded.

However, threats without the use of force traditionally did not work with the Russian Federation, and in response, the United States received an ultimatum. It was Moscow's position on Ukraine, formally set out in mid-December in two treaties, that NATO should abandon plans for its expansion and stop all activities in countries that joined the alliance after 1997, including Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Baltic states. In the end, Putin denied the US red lines and resorted to the attack.

The American leadership did not believe that Ukraine would survive the invasion, so the United States was preparing to support partisan movements on Ukrainian territory in order to create problems for the Russian Federation. However, resistance of the Ukrainian people, pushed Joe Biden to change his policy. It only happened in March of this year. So far, however, the White House's new strategy for the Russo-Ukrainian war was to prevent Ukraine from losing, not to completely defeat the Russian army. Moreover, Russia maintains a significant advantage in artillery, aviation and equipment, despite the successes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. According to retired US Army Lieutenant General, Hoover Institution Senior Fellow HR McMaster, the United States of America should take advantage of the current situation and change its approach - instead of trying to prevent Ukraine from losing, they should help the country to win. Before winter comes, he said, the Biden administration should provide the weaponry needed for the successful offensive. Tanks, ATACMS missiles capable of hitting targets at a distance of 300 km, as well as MQ9-Reaper drones, which, in conjunction with ATACMS, would have increased the efficiency of destroying the forces of the invaders should be on the list.[2] Aircraft is also mentioned, including A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft.

Avoiding escalation has long been a key element in the US approach towards Russia. As practice shows, it does not work. If we take the period since the beginning of the presidency of Joe Biden, every interaction attempt: whether it was cooperation or sort of detterrence, Putin responds with escalation. Immediately after Biden's election, the "Russian Donbass" conference took place in occupied Donetsk. After that, the Russian Federation concentrated troops around the borders of Ukraine. Then, after meeting with Biden in Geneva, Vladimir Putin published an article dismissing the possibility of an independent Ukraine. After Washington's threats, he issued an ultimatum to NATO and eventually attacked. After NATO and the United States threats to respond in the event of nuclear weapons use, Vladimir Putin held referendums and announced mobilization. For now, the threat of using nuclear weapons remains. However, there are doubts that if it is used against Ukraine, the United States of America will actually respond in a way that can be heard in the media today. The United States did not respond to the destruction of Grozny, did not properly respond to the aggression against Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014. In Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons and is still in power thanks to Vladimir Putin. In Ukraine, the main factor of military assistance was the people of the state and the defense forces, which have resisted. Thanks to Ukraine's resilience, the US and partner countries are now delivering the current level of aid. However, from the very beginning, Ukraine was actually given over to Russian occupation.

Given such a policy of the American leadership, doubts remain a nuclear strike on Ukraine will be fatal for Russia. Which can only encourage Vladimir Putin to escalate. Attempts not to anger the Kremlin dictator and attempts to "save" his face only encourage Russia to further increase its aggression. Therefore, the United States and partner countries should take advantage of the window of opportunity currently existing at the front and strengthen the counteroffensive capabilities of Ukrainian troops. Large-scale provision of heavy equipment, ATACMS missiles, MQ9-Reaper drones and A-10 aircraft will not cause a nuclear catastrophe. Such assistance will speed up the liberation of the entire territory of Ukraine, save the lives of Ukrainian military personnel, save the funds of Europeans who have suffered economic losses, and hasten the collapse of the Russian regime. The goal of the United States should be to ensure Ukraine wins the Russian-Ukrainian war and not to worry it can lose.

1. Шлях до війни: як США дізналися про наміри путіна і намагалися переконати союзників і Зеленського, що буде вторгнення, 16.08.2022,
2. Upheaval and Change in Russia, Iran, and Italy | GoodFellows, 27.09.2022,