Russian President Vladimir Putin will use nuclear weapons if Ukraine continues its "success" on the battlefield, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan told Insider on Tuesday, the same day Russia deployed a nuclear-capable mortar weapon to the battlefield.
Russia "would use a nuclear weapon before it allowed its military to be defeated in the field," Ryan said.
"If the Ukrainian military was having great success in the spring, and was chopping up the Russian military and was threatening taking back Crimea, then I think that the Russian military and leadership would use a nuclear weapon" to not only "destroy Ukrainian military targets," but to "convince Ukraine that continuing to fight this war would leave Ukraine as a nuclear holocaust," added Ryan, the former defense attaché to Russia from 2001 to 2003.
Ryan added that while Russia's "choices are broad" for where to deploy nukes, "the level of deaths could approach Hiroshima, or it could be far less if they only intend to fire like a warning shot of a nuclear weapon" in a less populated spot.
Russia deployed a weapon nicknamed "the Sledgehammer," a 2S4 Tulip that is capable of firing mortar rounds — likely those considered "micro-nukes," which can destroy an area the size of a football stadium.
"This is a huge weapon, devastating when using conventional weapons and capable of smashing a large area," an unnamed security source told the British publication Mirror. "But they will also be a very large target for Ukraine's drone and artillery teams, who are hunting down Russia's offensive equipment daily."
Speculating on an end, the retired general added, "This war goes isn't going to be determined at the negotiating table for a while and won't be determined in the air by missiles and bombs. But it will be determined by the fighting on the ground."
Also on Tuesday, media outlets reported that U.S. officials said Russia has lost three-quarters of its conventional firepower and suggested Putin is becoming more desperate.
Regarding the deployment of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, retired Col. Doug Macgregor, former senior adviser to the secretary of defense, told The Grayzone in March that the deployment of nuclear weapons could lead to unpredictable consequences.
"Remember," Macgregor said, "nuclear weapons only have value in the modern world in terms of their potential to protect your territorial integrity. That's it. The use of a nuclear weapon in any other situation is so destructive that no one sees any military utility to it, and no one wants to use it because it would have horrific consequences on the ground for anybody who's near it. And keep in mind that if we were to use a nuclear weapon or the Russians were, you would end up with the prevailing winds blowing the fallout across Central Asia into Northeast China, Korea, and Japan. The whole idea is insane."
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