With Moscow’s major offensive in Ukraine bogged down, Putin has once again waved his nuclear wand. Four days after the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, Putin put his forces on nuclear alert. Moscow has also not been shy about warning NATO away from steps to help Ukraine that it claims would escalate the conflict. To underscore this point, Russian forces have bombed Ukraine’s training base at Yavoriv, near the western border with Poland.
How real is the danger of nuclear escalation in Putin’s war on Ukraine? What do these nuclear threats mean for US and NATO policy designed to help Ukraine stop the Kremlin assault?
Ambassador John Herbst, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, moderates a conversation with Debra Cagan, distinguished energy fellow at the Transatlantic Leadership Network, General (Ret.) Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and the director of the Center’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative, Jan Lodal, distinguished fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and Christopher Preble, co-director of the New American Engagement Initiative in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, on the implications of the Kremlin’s nuclear threats.
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Europe in crisis
War in Ukraine
In February 2022, Moscow launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine after a months-long military build-up, threatening the country’s sovereignty and its future. This existential moment for the country follows the 2014 Maidan revolution, a nexus for Ukraine’s Europe-focused foreign policy and reform efforts. The ensuing Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea, aggression in Ukraine’s east, and Kremlin disinformation efforts, cast a shadow over Ukraine’s independence.
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