Is Russia really willing to use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine? This is the question preoccupying Europe and the world, particularly after video footage showing a convoy of the Russian army’s nuclear weapons division on its way to Ukraine began circulating on social media. According to experts, the convoy could just be delivering supplies. Commentators’ assessments regarding the seriousness of the situation diverge.

Today, Oct. 6, Europe’s press debates the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here are some opinions from a selection of European publications, presented by eurotopics.

Dangerously cornered

A nuclear strike is becoming increasingly likely, fears the Irish Independent:

“Putin needs a way out of the mess he has needlessly created and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of one. The increasingly irrational Russian dictator likes to recount the tale of him cornering a rat when he was a child in the ruins of St Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, only to be attacked by the creature. The worrying aspect of this anecdote is that Putin likes to compare himself to the rat. There have been plenty of calls for regime change in Russia, but that might not be the answer. After all, some of the most serious criticism he has received from his own politicians and generals is not that he went into Ukraine in the first place, but that he has not gone in hard enough.”

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More bark than bite

Putin is more than happy for the West to consider him irrational, stresses Eesti Päevaleht:

“Putin’s calculation is that the Western public’s fear of nuclear weapons is powerful enough to offer him a way out. … However, their effects are exaggerated. The use of a small tactical nuclear weapon would at most tear open a two-kilometre-wide gap on the front. Therefore, it would not bring decisive success on the battlefield, but it would increase public support for more resolute steps against Russia. Even China has warned that using the bomb would cross a red line and cost Russia the tacit support of Beijing.”


Putin could force negotiations

The Kremlin boss may see a nuclear strike against Ukraine as an emergency strategy, Contributors says:

“In Putin’s mind, that would force Ukraine to sit down at the negotiating table in order to avoid a repeat nuclear attack, leading to the recognition of the regions annexed in September. At the same time, Russia may be convinced that the West will not defend Ukraine in the event of a nuclear attack because it is not part of the collective Nato shield, and because it wants to avoid mutual nuclear attacks. This scenario is possible if Putin feels he is in real danger of losing power. The survival of his own regime is more important to him than a victory against Ukraine.”

Maintain support for Ukraine

The West must not lose its nerve now, Iltalehti stresses:

“The Kremlin must carefully consider whether Russia really wants to be a criminal state which uses a nuclear weapon to continue its failed war of conquest in the eyes of the international community, and of China in particular. … The US has also already made clear to Putin how high the price would be if he resorted to nuclear weapons. … In these times marked by war and uncertainty, the Western states have no choice but to keep a cool head and continue their support for Ukraine. We must not fall into Putin’s fear trap.”


Withstand uncertainty

The West must stand up to Putin despite the possibility of nuclear escalation, the tabloid Blick also urges:

“Never since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 has the world been so close to a nuclear escalation as it is today. And worse still: never in world history has a system as brutal as Putin’s Russia threatened so plausibly to use such perfidious weapons. The threat is serious. In Ukraine, observers and experts concur: Putin is absolutely capable of doing what seemed improbable until recently. … We must withstand the uncertainty about the Russian reaction. If we reach out to Putin now, we have already lost.”

We are on the brink of disaster

The fact that hardly any politicians are putting forward proposals for peace negotiations could have dramatic consequences for the whole world, Avvenire fears:

“It is understandable that countries that are at war lose their heads. … But the others? Europe, the US? Do we really believe that it’s enough to repeat that Vladimir Putin is to blame for everything and that it will all be over when he loses power and Russia is defeated? What if that is not the case? What if this only happens after many years of war, with social tensions in an impoverished Europe and parts of the world in turmoil because of food shortages? … Or after a nuclear conflict that could wipe several European cities and their inhabitants off the face of the earth?”


Putin also targeting Kyiv’s allies

Ukraine’s successes in the east and south could trigger unpredictable reactions from Vladimir Putin, Trouw fears:

“What Putin’s next move will be is completely unclear at this point. His actions do not always seem rational, at least not from the perspective of the countries that support Ukraine. … Putin’s fierce anti-Western rhetoric in his annexation speech last week suggests that in any case he also plans to hit the countries that are supporting Ukraine in places where they least expect it. The Netherlands had better steel itself for that, too.”

Only good at propaganda and rhetoric

Putin has failed in every respect, El País concludes:

“The only victories Vladimir Putin has achieved are propagandist ones. His successes are terrible and bloody because they consist of avenging military defeats by bombing defenceless civilians. … Or rhetorical, like Moscow’s gloomy celebration of the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces at the same time as his troops were fleeing the Ukrainian enemy in Lyman. The Russian president is a master only of threats and intimidation. As commander-in-chief of an increasingly discredited army, he has so far displayed little skill and lamentable political and diplomatic deficits in the international management of the conflict.”



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