That brings us to the other notable part of Putin’s call-up speech: the not-very-veiled nuclear threat. Would he really go that far?
There are plenty of reasons to suggest that he wouldn’t. A tactical nuclear strike wouldn’t do much to advance his war effort; holding freshly nuked territory isn’t an attractive proposition; and fallout might blow back into Russia. Yet Hal Brands believes it’d be wise to take the threat seriously. Using a nuke might not actually backfire: Those desperate to end the fighting immediately may be willing to make concessions to Putin. Retaliating with nuclear strikes risks an escalatory spiral. Plus, as Leonid noted in a Twitter Space with Clara Ferreira Marques and Bobby Ghosh on Thursday: “If [Putin] loses, he’s finished and it’s not going to be very nice for him.” At this point, Putin may be willing to do anything to ensure survival.
All these things are no doubt weighing on US President Joe Biden’s mind right now. No one rational would envy the decisions he’ll have to make in the coming weeks and months. – Lara Williams, Bloomberg
Great podcast on all of the above: