Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has not gone according to plan. The Russian army has faced a resistance no one could have foreseen, not even Putin. There also seems to be a sense that Russia did not prepare an alternative plan for such circumstances.

Often, when presented with the unexpected, people make idle threats. However, when these threats involve nuclear weapons, they must be taken seriously. That appears to be where the Russian mindset is as Ukrainians continue to stand their ground.

The perception now is that Ukraine has a chance to actually win this war. No one really explains how that might happen. When the invasion started over a month ago, most experts envisioned a far more overwhelming outcome than what has actually transpired.

In fact, many are strategizing on how Ukraine can actually emerge victorious. What a Ukraine victory looks like is still murky. Nevertheless, just the talk has most NATO allies looking at measures to step up their support for Ukraine.

Staring at the potential for a drawn-out conflict has Russian military minds racing back to the drawing board. But recent developments have also struck a nerve. If Russian forces cannot reach their objective using the current strategy, what happens if Ukraine is fortified even more?

This is what we allude to when we say Russian officials are making idle threats. They have to be confused by what they see. There is no doubt that they appreciate any escalation of NATO involvement could rapidly tip the scales in Ukraine’s favor.

So, the new Russian game plan appears to be the nuclear threat card. Vladimir Putin’s press secretary was blunt. Dmitry Peskov told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Russia would use nuclear weapons if presented with an “existential threat.”

Existential threats are widely open to interpretation. What would constitute an “existential threat?” Would the addition of air power to attack Russian forces be such a threat? What type of military firepower would Russia see as meeting the criteria for existential?

A Russian military expert, Igor Korotchenko, expanded the possible definition even farther. Korotchenko insisted, “The West will never lift the sanctions from Russia.” If that is Russia’s belief, this could immediately provide Putin with its “existential threat.”

Many of Russia’s talking heads adamantly believe that all participating nations declared war on Russia when they devastated Russia’s economy with severe sanctions. The Russian stock market has basically collapsed.

More than one Russian official has deemed this akin to a declaration of war. Such a declaration, according to Russian military doctrine, opens the door for justifiable retaliation. Russia’s military doctrine also believes that circumstances such as these warrant tactical nuclear strikes.

But the most serious threat came from one of Putin’s most notorious propagandists. Vladimir Soloviev spoke to the country via Russia’s largest TV network. Soloviev was startlingly blunt. “If you decide to prepare NATO peacekeepers and bring them in, this will mean nuclear war.”

No clarifications and no series of specific circumstances are mentioned. He emphatically says that any escalation by NATO forces, even for peacekeeping, will open the door for a nuclear attack. Soloviev said that such a strike would essentially vaporize Warsaw.

That’s a pretty serious threat. Russia has the nuclear capability for such a strike, many of them in fact. So, where does that leave NATO and U.S. strategy? Do the western allies kowtow to Moscow’s threats? They must be taken seriously, but how seriously?

What must be scary for Eastern Europeans, are the people making the decisions for the United States. One is a bumbling old fool with a horrific foreign policy record. The second in command is a cackling hyena. These may be idle threats from talking heads who are backed into a corner.

They’re making threats because they’re losing. But nuclear bombs are no joke. Russia has an arsenal of them. Every time one of Putin’s propaganda spreaders spouts off one of these threats, people better be listening. World War III will not be pretty.

It will not end well for anyone. The bombs are bigger; the stakes are higher. It’s just such a scary thought that Joe Biden is the person entrusted with helping to prevent it. Some healthy prayer time might be the order of the day, especially in Europe.


Daniel is a conservative syndicated opinion writer and amateur theologian. He writes about topics of politics, culture, freedom, and faith.

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