Kremlin using nuclear blackmail to influence Western decision-making on Ukraine - ISW

Kremlin using nuclear blackmail to influence Western decision-making on Ukraine - ISW

The Kremlin appears to be re-intensifying a reflexive control campaign targeting Western decision-making using nuclear threats and diplomatic manipulation.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said this in a new Russian offensive campaign assessment, Ukrinform reports.

According to ISW analysts, reflexive control is a key element of Russia's hybrid warfare toolkit — it is a tactic that relies on shaping an adversary with targeted rhetoric and information operations in such a way that the adversary voluntarily takes actions that are advantageous to Russia.

"Russia has frequently used nuclear saber-rattling throughout the course of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine to cause the West (Russia's self-defined adversary) to stop providing military support for Ukraine, and this nuclear saber-rattling has become a frequently used form of Russian reflexive control," the report said.

Russian officials are critical elements of Russia's efforts to use nuclear rhetoric as a form of reflexive control, as ISW has frequently reported. Russian officials consistently time nuclear readiness exercises and vague threats of nuclear retaliation with important Western policy decisions regarding the war in Ukraine to force Western decision-makers to self-deter and temper their support for Ukraine.

Read also: Russia forming offensive grouping toward Kharkiv but capturing city seen impossible - ISW

The current apparent resurgence of nuclear rhetoric, this time in the form of planned tactical nuclear weapons exercises, coincides with the imminent arrival of Western weapons in Ukraine, analysts said.

"Russian officials are likely using the nuclear weapons information operation to discourage Ukraine's Western partners from providing additional military support and to scare Western decision-makers out of allowing Ukrainian forces to use Western-provided systems to attack legitimate military targets in Russia," ISW said.

Russian troops engage in routine nuclear exercises as part of this wider nuclear rhetoric information operation, but ISW continues to assess that Russia is highly unlikely to use a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine or anywhere else.

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