Russia is believed to have around 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons in its arsenal, with some even powerful enough to kill tens of thousands of people with a single strike. Vladimir Putin’s surge into Ukraine hasn’t gone to plan, with his troops being met with courageous and spirited resistance from Ukraine. This has seen Russia suffer swathes of casualties on the battlefield – including forces and high-ranking military generals – while troops have been forced out of Ukrainian cities they had been confident of occupying.
Now with Putin having his back against the wall, this has triggered fears Moscow may now turn to using nuclear weapons in a desperate to get its crumbling war strategy firmly back on track.
But Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy expert and former aide to Margaret Thatcher, warned Putin launching a nuclear strike on the West “would be the end of Russia”.
He told Express.co.uk: “The reality is the use of nuclear weapons by Russia would be the end of Russia, and they know that.
“This has been the state of affairs since World War Two, and every Russian leader since then understands Russia making the first move with a nuclear strike would be the end of Russia.
“Even the UK on its own has the ability to cripple Russia with its nuclear arsenal, let alone what the US has at its disposal.
“In fact, just defence from the UK alone if the Russians strike Britain would mean the end of Russia.”
But Mr Gardiner also warned that Putin could be at his most dangerous with Russia’s war plan crumbling before his eyes, and that he will be plotting revenge.
He urged the world not to underestimate him and always remain on guard, comparing the Russian President to a snake thrashing around in a bag waiting to bite someone.
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However Mr Gardiner added: “But at the same time the Russian rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons is overwhelmingly intended to intimidate.
“It is intended the divide NATO and threaten countries intending to join that defence alliance.
“This is just classic Russian propaganda we are seeing here, where they are making all kinds of threats and are trying to divide the Western alliance.
“Russia has a lot of nuclear weapons and they are always prepared to use them as part of their nuclear posture, and that should be no surprise.
“It is also part of their psychological warfare campaign that is designed to put the fear of God into Western countries.”
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of Britain’s armed forces, has warned Putin could be facing the prospect of an arms deficit after underestimating fightback shown from Ukrainian forces.
The Chief of the Defence Staff said: “You’re also seeing, on a daily basis, Russia struggling to get the momentum, struggling to align its air forces with its land forces and struggling to get what we call a modern campaign which creates that momentum.”
Sir Tony also claimed since the start of the war, Russia has lost a humiliating quarter of its forces, with its struggles continuing in the key battleground of the Donbas region in the country’s east.
He added: “We’re talking severe impact on their armed forces.
“We’ve had 25 percent of their forces effectively being taken out – either through people being killed, or through the damage to their battalion tactical groups.”