by Paul Kengor | April 27, 2023

For a while now, listeners to American Radio Journal have heard me express my fear of a desperate Vladimir Putin ultimately resorting to a nuclear option of some sort in Ukraine. Why? Well, for starters, the Russians always get their tails kicked in military conflicts. The fact they’ve been beat up in the Ukraine is no surprise to anyone with a knowledge of Russian military history. Maybe the one person most surprised is Vladimir Putin—maybe. He’s certainly not pleased. Putin is a thug, and as he runs out of options to seize Ukraine, the cornered dictator could lash out at his fabricated enemy in an especially vicious way. That might mean nuclear weapons in some form.

That also means that Putin has desperately searched for an excuse for such weapons. He needs to conjure up a pretext to groan about on the global stage, just as he invented the ludicrous notion that he invaded Ukraine not because he was planning to do so for years, which I’ve written about in my articles for The American Spectator, including long before Volodymyr Zelensky came to power in May 2019, but to spare the neighboring nation’s people from QUOTE “Nazification” under the Jewish leader.

Well, Putin might now have his excuse to escalate to a nuclear level.

Russia has learned that Britain is supplying to the Ukraine tank munitions that use depleted uranium shells—specifically, armor-piercing rounds that accompany the Challenger 2 tanks that London is providing to Kiev. Britain has used these shells for years as standard conventional weaponry. They’re not considered nuclear weapons.

To this, the Kremlin has responded, “Nyet!,” and then some. Putin and his minions insist that Britain’s depleted uranium shells would add a “nuclear component” to the conflict and hence Russia could respond accordingly: Putin said grimly, QUOTE: “It seems that the West really decided to fight with Russia to the last Ukrainian—no longer in words, but in deeds. But in this regard, I would like to note that if all this happens, then Russia will have to respond accordingly. I mean that the collective West is already starting to use weapons with a nuclear component.” UNQUOTE

That’s pure agitprop, ratcheted up to the level of classic Soviet dezinformatsiya—that is, disinformation. Former Lt. Col. Putin learned the craft at the KGB in the 1980s.

The British Ministry of Defence stated just that: “The British Army has used depleted uranium in its armour piercing shells for decades. Russia knows this, but is deliberately trying to disinform.” A British Army tank commander and chemical weapons expert, Colonel Hamish de Breton-Gordon, dubbed Putin’s assessment “classic disinformation.”

Spot on, colonel.

But Putin is peddling this bunkum for a dastardly purpose, and NATO member countries know it, especially those near the front lines.

One such country, Hungary, is now urging Britain not to supply these munitions because Putin clearly is using them as an excuse for further “escalation.”

Hungary is right to express that concern. But then again, Putin will seize a pretext anywhere he can. That’s how authoritarians operate. He invaded Ukraine with the excuse that he was sparing its people of “Nazis.” Like Hitler, the real Nazi, like Stalin, like Saddam Hussein, like any dictator, he’ll carve out excuses to carve up his enemies.

Vladimir Putin, I firmly believe, is itching to use nukes. This is far from the first time that he has talked about nuclear weapons. In fact, just a few days later, news reports out of Moscow were that Putin plans to place nukes in Belarus this June or July. This man has been steadily moving toward the nuclear option as he loses on the ground. When he gets truly desperate, I fear he could pull the trigger. Maybe this might be the pretext he has been grasping for.

Let us hope it isn’t.