Putin's 'martyr complex' so out of control he may unleash nukes

Putin’s ‘martyr complex’ is so out of control there is a real risk he will make ‘the most fateful decision of the century’ and unleash nuclear weapons, think-tank warns

  • New report has highlighted growing risk of Putin turning to nuclear weapons
  • It also outlines how the Kremlin has worked itself ‘into a state of near hysteria’ 

Vladimir Putin’s ‘martyr complex’ is so out of control there is a risk he will embolden Russia to use nuclear and chemical weapons, a think tank has warned – amid rising concerns over the Kremlin’s ‘hysteric rhetoric’.

A new report published by the US think tank Heritage Foundation has highlighted a growing risk the Russian president will ‘make one of the most fateful decisions of the century’ in the face of his faltering invasion of Ukraine.

It also outlines how the Kremlin has worked itself ‘into a state of near hysteria’ about the ‘ridiculous’ assessment that NATO poses a military threat to the country.

Since Putin invaded Ukraine, his propagandists have continued to threaten the UK with a nuclear holocaust – and the rhetoric has continued to escalate in recent months.

The study, named The US and Its Allies Must Understand and Respond to Russia’s Nuclear Threats, explores the actual likelihood that Putin will turn to using weapons of mass destruction.

A new report published by the US think tank Heritage Foundation has highlighted a growing risk the Russian president will ‘make one of the most fateful decisions of the century’

Since Putin invaded Ukraine, his propagandists have continued to threaten the UK with a nuclear holocaust

Russian generals are understood to have discussed the use of tactical nuclear weapons in November, but is said to be cautious about the use of long-range weapons.

However, Russia has ‘increasingly portrayed the West as an enemy and appears to now accept tactical strategic nuclear weapons as an option for deterring further escalation of combat.

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The country is understood to have between 1,000 and 2,000 nuclear weapons of varying sizes.

The use of such weapons is seen by Western nations as a last resort, but the report states Russia may turn to  tactical nuclear weapons ‘early in the exercise or at mid-point’.

The report outlines four situations in which Putin would turn to nuclear weapons; pre-empting an attack on Russia; use against Russia; a threat, such as a cyberattack on Russia’s command-and-control systems; and an existential threat to Russia from conventional or nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons provide a ‘comfort blanket’ for the Kremlin, but is more likely to employ nukes than the West, it says.

In the face of its stagnant invasion, Russia has turned its focus to shelling Ukraine’s electricity and water supplies. 

But Putin is said to have a ‘higher tolerance threshold’ for both civilian and military casualties than Western nations amid reports of Russian mercenaries engaging in suicidal assaults in the battle for Bakhmut.

It comes as Moscow has launched a massive winter offensive involving hundreds of thousands of freshly called-up reservists and convicts recruited from jail as mercenaries, who have been forming human wave attacks in an attempt to overwhelm the town’s defenders.

Small groups of soldiers push forward against the Ukrainian positions, many of whom are mown down by machine guns as they approach. Those killed are simply replaced by others also deemed expendable.

A boarding school that was hit by a Russian S-300 missile on Wednesday morning in Kharkiv, Ukraine

A man walks in front of a building with a large banner reading ‘Russia does not start wars, it ends them. Vladimir Putin’ in downtown Yalta, Crimea

This tactic is known as human wave attacks, with reports suggesting it was pioneered in Ukraine by the Wagner mercenary group, which at its peak had 50,000 soldiers – many convicts – to crash against Ukraine’s positions.

And the report has found the likelihood of Russia using nuclear or chemical weapons is increasing amid a desire to attack Ukrainian morale.

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It says: ‘Russia has failed to defeat the Ukrainian military and is now focusing on forcing the capitulation of the civilian population by attacking electricity and water supplies. 

‘It is therefore plausible that Russia will not only threaten to use, but actually use, a weapon of mass destruction to target civilian resistance in Ukraine. 

‘Russia is focusing on destroying Ukraine’s power infrastructure, and with the nuclear industry now producing around 60 percent of pre-war power, a Russian attack on nuclear power stations to cut off electricity and create an improvised nuclear incident is a real prospect.’

It has also warned that the use of chemical weapons against metro stations in eastern Ukraine would be ‘devastating’. 

The report cites the use of chemical weapons in Syria as evidence of Russia’s willingness.

It has also highlighted Russia’s efforts to ‘weaponise refugees’ and create mass flows of people into Western countries to the point they become ‘overwhelmed’.

The study references the flow of Syrian refugees into Turkey and on to Europe, with Russia aiming to create a second wave of Ukrainian nationals placing pressure on the resources of neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Moldova, and Poland.

Despite Moscow’s continued threats, Ukrainians have continued to resist the invasion, with fighting becoming more intense as it draws on.

But the study has warned the risk of humiliation in military failure heightens the risk of Putin using nuclear weapons. 

Members of the Ukrainian special unit gather in the woods, near Bachmut, in the region of Donbas, on Wednesday

Members of the Plast scouting organization lay flowers near a coffin of the fallen Ukrainian soldier Dmytro Pashchuk during a memorial service

The report adds: ‘Putin’s concept of “greater Russia”, with Ukraine and Belarus in Russia’s sphere of influence, is indeed under mortal attack: Ukrainians collectively want to be free of Russian control. 

‘The greater the threat from Moscow, the greater the Ukrainian desire to be free. With or without Western support, Ukrainians will fight. 

‘Putin’s dream of Russia as an anti-Western, quasi-Soviet, illiberal state is facing humiliation and defeat. In Putin’s mind, this crisis may have become existential -which, under Russian doctrine, would justify the use of any and all weapons.’

It also highlights Putin’s ‘martyr complex’ and previous comments on ‘the glory of dying for one’s country’ creating a fetishished idea linking Russian Orthodox Christianity and nuclear weapons.

In response to the growing threat of nuclear weapons, the report has outlined six recommendations.

It suggests the US and its allies should deter Russia by ‘ensuring that the Kremlin understands that any use will elicit an overwhelming conventional response that would severely downgrade Russian forces and the elites serving Putin’.

The countries must also engage in diplomacy to ensure Russia’s allies also warn it against using nuclear weapons.

The report adds that medical stockpiles must be maintained and channels of communication with Russia kept open even if the Kremlin is not responsive. 

Putin, right, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu watch the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia

Yars ICBM launched in strategic deterrence forces exercises in October last year

It concludes: ‘Russia would probably prefer to threaten the use of nuclear weapons and to fight conventionally. But Putin and his generals are not necessarily bluffing. 

‘Threatening to use nuclear weapons to divide Western populations was a Soviet tactic: scaring the Western publics now may be part of the same playbook. 

‘But the West cannot be sure, and official Russian statements and doctrine present the loss of Ukraine, bizarrely or not, as “existential,” which under Russian doctrine allows Russia to use nuclear and chemical weapons.

‘Putin’s dreams of Ukraine re-incorporated into Russia, of breaking up NATO, and of Russia leading a global anti-Western alliance are collapsing about him. 

‘Disaster for Russia’s imploding armed forces may well await, and at some point, Ukraine’s armed forces will likely threaten to break Russia’s land corridor linking Crimea to the Donbas. 

‘At that point, Putin will make one of the most fateful decisions of the century: whether to employ nuclear or chemical weapons. The U.S. must act now to minimize that threat and to ensure the protection of the American public and U.S. allies.’

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