The Nuclear Deescalation Case for Giving Putin a Diplomatic Offramp if Russia’s Invasion is Outright Defeated

Before Putin declared war the consensus about Ukraine’s military was that while its combined regular and insurgent/territorial defense forces were numerically superior to the over 150,000 Russian soldiers that were poised to invade, the Ukrainians were nevertheless overmatched by Russia’s qualitative edge in equipment and training.

Well that qualitative edge has been exposed as a mirage by Russia’s gross mismanagement of the offensive.

It has come to pass that Russia’s main force is being outperformed by Ukrainian insurgent forces who are heavily armed with US and European anti-tank missiles.

This means that Ukraine’s military is not only numerically superior to Russia (to say nothing of the great difference in motivation) but it is also, in practice, proving to be qualitatively superior to Russia’s.

Which further means that it is possible that Ukraine might be able to outright defeat Putin’s invasion, especially considering the longer Ukraine blunts Russia’s attacks the more US and Western European weapons will be added to Ukraine’s expanding arsenal.

Unfortunately, the closer the Russian attack gets to collapsing completely the more likely it is that Putin will resort to using nuclear weapons.

Remember that in game theory (which formed much of the strategic basis for the Cold War policy of mutually assured destruction) starting a nuclear war is inherently no different that making any other kind of decision.

In game theory all someone needs to do anything (including launching a nuclear strike) is to (A) have the ability to do something, and (B) have more reason to do something rather than any other alternative.

Putin, of course, already has the ability to start a nuclear war.

If Putin is also looking at a realistic prospect of a total failure of his invasion force then he would steadily have less and less reason not to order a nuclear strike.

At this point (assuming he hasn’t already been overthrown by then, which he may or may not be) it would be wise to offer some sort of offramp to Putin to make it more attractive to not fire his nuclear missiles.

Because if he were to order a nuclear attack there would be nothing that could stop the order except his generals either killing or imprisoning him in a coup.

America’s missile defense systems are still not technologically capable of intercepting more than a handful of primitive nuclear warheads at a time.

That would leave the task of preventing a nuclear war entirely in the hands of Putin’s senior commanders.

Which would not be a good position for the world to be in considering how less than impressive their handling of basic refueling logistics (among other things) has been.

If it looks like Russia’s invasion is nearing collapse the West should immediately intervene to arrange a ceasefire and perhaps offer a concession on Ukraine’s NATO membership, maybe by offering a 10 year suspension of it.

The ceasefire would give the United States, Britain, and the EU crucial time to rearm Ukraine with weapons that go beyond the anti-tank missiles we have been sending, such as fighters, modern Western battle tanks, heavy artillery, cruise missiles, and more drones.

4 thoughts on “The Nuclear Deescalation Case for Giving Putin a Diplomatic Offramp if Russia’s Invasion is Outright Defeated”

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