Russia has purposely hinted that “nuclear” threats could come with any Western attempt to intervene in Ukraine. As part of this Moscow talking point, there are hints that its war against its besieged neighbor could lead to “World War III.” This is a talking point that works in Russia’s favor because it makes it seem like any attempt to help Ukraine is “escalation against Russia.”
The blackmail involved here also includes Russia hinting about upping its willingness to use nuclear weapons. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence was threatened, reports say. However, the very mention of the nuclear option is designed to make it seem like this is a real issue.
Why does Russia even mention nuclear weapons? Why not just say that “while Ukraine is important to us, nuclear weapons must never be used in conflict.”? The fact that Russia’s Peskov is purposely being mysterious about this is all about blackmailing the West.
“We have a concept of domestic security, and it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” Peskov said on Tuesday. “So if it is an existential threat to our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.”
It is also no surprise that Western media have said that Moscow is weighing using chemical weapons in Ukraine. Russia backed the Syrian regime, which used such weapons. Now The New York Times and The Guardian have both said that there is a threat of Russia using them. Russia has also pushed conspiracies about chemical weapons being stored in Ukraine.
This is all a game plan that Iran will soon use if it gets a nuclear deal. It will use the threat of nuclear weapons constantly to claim that any attempt to oppose Iran’s control of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen could result in “an existential threat to Iran.” This would then become a “nuclear redline” for Iran and it would be “escalation” and “risk WW III” if anyone challenges Tehran in the region.
Up until now, Israel has had some impunity – and also US support – for opposing Iran’s entrenchment. However, an Iran that gets closer to a nuclear weapon will be able to use the Russian model regarding Ukraine. Russia invaded its southwestern neighbor illegally but now makes it seem like any attempt by other countries to have a role there would “risk war” – even though it is Russia that started the war.
We can see the Russian logic of using this threat in Ukraine. It wants to be able to have a right to destroy and control Ukraine, which it sees as a “near abroad.” Iran also thinks about Iraq in the same way. It has taken over parts of Iraq and has the impunity to fire rockets at it and target US forces there.
But Iran’s control of Syria is still contested. Nevertheless, Iran would like to make this more iron-clad and be able to draw a redline to safeguard its bases in Syria. Iran may soon roll out the Russian blackmail model regarding Syria and Iraq. It has already said that it doesn’t want foreign involvement in Yemen, even as Tehran already interferes in the Middle Eastern country south of Saudi Arabia.