Considering that this worst-case scenario has been extended credibility by leading Western officials, it’s therefore timely to discuss what would happen in that event, which could occur as early as the end of this month or sometime during the next one.
Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly Laszlo Kover declared in early September that “Under external pressure, the EU is acting against its most basic economic interests and should already be considered a loser, regardless of which of the parties directly involved in fighting will declare itself the winner.” According to RT, he added that “Powers outside Europe are trying to condemn the bloc’s members to ‘military vulnerability, political subjugation, economic and energy incapacity, financial indebtedness and social disintegration,’ with Brussels helping them to achieve this goal.” This is objectively the case and is bound to get worse if events spiral out of control over the next few weeks.
The liberated areas of Ukraine’s former Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk, and Zaporozhye regions will almost certainly vote to reunify with their historic Russian homeland upon the completion of their ongoing referenda, in which case Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov already made it clear during his speech at the UN General Assembly that they’d be protected by his country’s nuclear umbrella. This came after former President Dmitry Medvedev explicitly warned that nuclear weapons could be used to defend those regions upon their incorporation into Russia, which followed President Vladimir Putin very strongly implying as much in his televised address to the nation last Wednesday.
I earlier argued in these three analyses here, here, and here that Russia isn’t bluffing about the scenario of employing tactical nukes in self-defense as an absolute last resort to stop an overwhelming NATO-backed but Ukrainian-fronted invasion of newly incorporated territory that the US might order Kiev to commence prior to the completion of Russia’s partial mobilization of 300,000 experienced reservists. Commander of US Strategic Command Navy Admiral Charles Richard declared that it’s “no longer theoretical” to consider the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, the Washington Post reported that other US officials feel the same way, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said something similar.
Considering that this worst-case scenario has been extended credibility by leading Western officials, it’s therefore timely to discuss what would happen in that event, which could occur as early as the end of this month or sometime during the next one. Most immediately, the possible use of tactical nukes in self-defense by Russia as a last resort would be to destroy the overwhelming conventional invasion forces in parallel with strategic non-nuclear strikes against military and support targets (e.g. certain infrastructure) all throughout Ukraine. This response would be intended to completely cripple the opponent by eliminating their ability to wage a war of aggression against Russia.
Should Russia cross the Rubicon by employing tactical nukes, then it might reckon that there’s no reason for it not to also pull the plug on its energy exports to Europe in order to complicate NATO countries’ support for their Ukrainian proxies. While the whole continent wouldn’t black out, some parts of it would, and it’s therefore likely that martial law would be imposed in response (whether in the most directly affected countries or the bloc as a whole) in order to most effectively allocate emergency resources. The socio-economic consequences of these fast-moving events could also predictably lead to riots, which some authorities might struggle to control depending on the country and context.
Generally speaking, seeing as how it’s only possible to predict the most likely contours of this unprecedented scenario and not the exact details, the overall effect would be to exacerbate the state of strategic affairs that Hungarian Speaker Kover touched upon in early September. “Military vulnerability, political subjugation, economic and energy incapacity, financial indebtedness and social disintegration” will definitely follow whether in whole or in part, with the most probable outcome being that the US will comprehensively reassert its declining unipolar hegemony over Europe in such a way as to forever prevent the continent’s full recovery and restoration of its prior role as an economic rival.
The ”World War III” scenario of nuclear exchanges between Russia and NATO can never be ruled out but is still unlikely absent a miscalculation since the concept of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) remains in place due to Moscow’s advances in hypersonic and glide vehicle technology that neutralized the US’ efforts to erode its counterpart’s second-strike capability through the “missile defense shield”. Even the most ideologically radicalized members of the American elite aren’t expected to commit suicide by provoking Russia into retaliating to any first strike that some of them might be fantasizing about so the prospect of the apocalypse happening sometime soon seems far-fetched for that reason.
Acknowledging that the military impact of Russia’s possible employment of tactical nukes in self-defense as a last resort would likely remain limited to the Ukrainian battlefield, but the socio-economic and political consequences of that unprecedented move would reverberate all throughout the continent, it can therefore be said that Europe had better hope that the US doesn’t force Russia into that scenario. President Putin wouldn’t have any reason to hold back and not completely pull the plug on his country’s energy exports to Europe if he already crossed the Rubicon by using tactical nukes. Everything that follows would be utterly chaotic for the EU and inevitably result in its perpetual servitude to the US.