Dmitry Trenin is a research professor at the Higher School of Economics and a lead research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. He is also a member of the Russian International Affairs Council.
It is likely that this US strategy is based on the belief that the Russian leadership would not dare use nuclear weapons in the current conflict, and that its references to the nuclear arsenal at its disposal are nothing more than a bluff. The Americans have even been calm – at least outwardly about the deployment of Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus. Such “fearlessness” is a direct result of the geopolitical changes of the last three decades and the change of generations in power in the US and the West in general.
The fear of the atomic bomb, present in the second half of the twentieth century, has disappeared. Nuclear weapons have been taken out of the equation. The practical conclusion is clear: there is no need to be afraid of such a Russian response.
This is an extremely dangerous misconception. The trajectory of the Ukrainian war points to an escalation of the conflict both horizontally (by expanding the theater of military action) and vertically (by increasing the power of the weapons used and the intensity of their use). It must be soberly acknowledged that this momentum is heading towards a direct armed confrontation between Russia and NATO. If the accumulated inertia is not stopped, such a clash will take place, and in this case the war, having spread to Western Europe, will almost inevitably become nuclear. And after some time, a nuclear war in Europe will most likely lead to an exchange of blows between Russia and the US.