06 October 2022

Putin's nuclear saber-rattling

As the Ukrainian counter-offensives in the Kharkiv and Kherson areas have liberated substantial territory from Russian occupation, Putin's rhetoric has escalated.  In particular, there have been hints about possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.  How worried should we be about this?

First, it's possible that such threats are meant purely as intimidation, although it's not clear exactly what Putin thinks this will accomplish.  If he was hoping that Ukraine would be scared into halting its efforts to recover its territory, he's been disappointed.  (Nor was that aim served by the Russian "annexation" of occupied regions of Ukraine, which the Ukrainians have essentially ignored, proceeding with their military operations regardless.)  But Putin has a history of using threats even when it seems obvious they'll be counterproductive.  When Finland and Sweden started talking about joining NATO, he growled menacingly at them even though this merely exacerbated the fear of Russia that had pushed them into wanting to join in the first place.  As I've pointed out before, Russia has nothing positive to offer other countries, so threats are its only tool for influencing their behavior, and it uses them even when a neutral observer could predict they would backfire.

So the nuclear saber-rattling could be just an empty threat.  But what if it's meant seriously?

To dispose of one obvious point:  since March, Putin has said that he would use nuclear weapons in case of an "existential threat" to Russia.  But that's nothing new -- it's the standard which every nuclear-armed country applies.  The US would use nuclear weapons if needed to defeat a threat to its own existence.  So would the UK or France.  Since Israel developed its nuclear weapons, it has been understood that their full fury would be unleashed if Muslim states continued serious efforts to destroy Israel as an independent nation.  This is simply the unwritten rule everybody recognizes.  Once a country has an effective nuclear arsenal, any serious threat to that country's territory and population is off the table.  If another country invaded Russia or tried to destroy it, Russia would have every right to go nuclear in response, but no country is seriously considering such a course.

So the question is whether Putin is likely to go beyond the normal and legitimate brandishing of nuclear weapons as a deterrent, and use them to further what everybody knows is a war of aggression and expansion.  There are, I think, four reasons why he probably won't.

1) Western retaliation.  Biden has stated that if Putin used a tactical nuclear bomb in Ukraine, NATO would inflict a devastating response.  It's not clear what kind of response he has in mind, though there have been hints that this has been conveyed in detail to the Putin regime behind closed doors.  General Petraeus has suggested that it might include the total annihilation of all Russian military forces in Ukraine, which NATO is certainly capable of doing.  This would of course mean direct NATO-Russia conflict, a very dangerous situation; but if Putin goes nuclear, NATO leaders might well feel that it could no longer be avoided.  If radioactive fallout from a Russian bomb reached any of the NATO countries on Ukraine's western border, this might be taken as an attack on NATO in any case.

2) Ineffectiveness.  It's not clear that Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons would induce Ukraine to surrender or give up its efforts to recover occupied territory, especially since NATO might then enter the war on its side.  If used on the battlefield, the bombs might do more harm to Russian forces than to their opponents, and there would be serious risk of fallout reaching Russia, since the areas of fighting are close to the border.  If used on cities, they would enrage Ukraine, and the West, all the more.

3) Risk of embarrassment.  The war has revealed that Russia's military equipment has been shockingly ill-maintained, rendering much of it barely-functional junk when it actually needs to be used.  Is Russia's nuclear arsenal in equally-bad shape?  Probably no one, not even Putin, knows for sure.  If Putin deployed a nuclear bomb in Ukraine and it failed to detonate or otherwise malfunctioned, the last ragged remnant of Russia's pretense to great-power status would lose much credibility.  The same questions hover over Russia's strategic nuclear forces.  Even in the event of an all-out war with NATO, can Putin be sure most of his missiles would reach their targets and detonate?  Because he can be sure ours would.

4) Risk to the regime.  Cartoons notwithstanding, Putin does not have an actual red button on his desk that would directly launch a nuclear bomb.  He would have to give orders, which would be carried out by others.  Those others, and the Russian military leadership, would then face a choice:  obey, and risk an escalation to all-out war with NATO which would destroy Russia, or disobey and remove the megalomaniac whose increasingly crazed behavior had brought them to this pass?  You can be sure they have already been thinking hard about what to do if such a situation arises.  How confident can Putin be of which way they would jump?

From Putin's point of view, threatening to use nuclear weapons has some appeal, but actually using them offers huge risks and little gain.  I'd also note that Western governments, which have access to far better intelligence about what's really going on or likely to happen than the rest of us do, seem unimpressed by Putin's threats.  None have dialed back their support for Ukraine in response.  So while no one knows the future for certain, I'd judge a nuclear escalation to be unlikely.

05 October 2022

Comment issue

I suspect that there may have recently been a glitch in the Blogspot commenting system.  If you left a comment here in the last few days which has not appeared, please e-mail me (the address is in the profile) and let me know.  If anyone else has noticed comments disappearing on blogs, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

03 October 2022

'Tis the season

The signs are all around us.....

.....Halloween is coming!

For those of us who welcome the season.....

.....it's like a homecoming.....

.....time to be your true self.

Some may already be shopping for decorations.....

.....or making their own.

If you don't have a pumpkin, use whatever is available.....

.....and always remember that squash and pumpkins go together well.

Whether you participate in the holiday with gusto.....

.....or prefer to just relax and watch.....

.....your time is coming.

["A month of macabre" made by Pliny; "ballsy" squash grown and photographed by Lady M.]

02 October 2022

Link round-up for 2 October 2022

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Some wry aphorisms here (found via Silverapplequeen).

This reporter needed to waterproof her microphone.

Give your kitten something to play with during the ride.

Finally, a good idea for an audiobook.

Somebody had fun naming these birds.

Eleven years before Star Trek.

Far Corner Café proclaims the beginning of the Halloween season.  Lady M starts the countdown.

After years of service and saving 38 lives, officer Luna retires from the Scottish police (scroll down a bit).

Not everyone is as smart as NASA.

Some people are just bad drivers.

View the startling huacrapona palm tree.

Read the inspiring tale of Harlot's Web (NSFW).

It's not Satan's fault.

See video from around the world in the 1890s.

Here's all you could ever hope to learn about Idunna, Norse goddess of the apples (found via Silverapplequeen).

The Rings of Power just keeps getting worse.  Part of the problem is that the good guys are evil.

What would life be like if everybody could teleport?

When you dress for Halloween, don't be too scary.

Novels must be free to explore evil.

Who will pray for the one who needs it most?

Read about Fauja Singh the Sikh Superman, and a "naughty" novelist from the 1960s.

A former Nazi submarine base in France has been transformed into a visual-arts space -- how successful is the effort?

Finally, an honest commercial.

Margaret Atwood has grounds to complain.

OnionShare allows you to create a website that can't be censored.  This post is a little technical and I'm not sure it would work for a blog, but any blogger concerned about being censored on their current platform might want to look into OnionShare more broadly.

Here's a guide to internet services that help protect privacy.

On Thursday, the blog Big Whack Attack was taken down by Blogspot (NSFW images at link), then restored a few hours later.  A week ago one post at Lo Imprescindible was taken down for unclear reasons and apparently is still down.  Finally, remember this.  If you have a blog that includes any sexually-explicit material or controversial opinions, or if you have trolls/assholes who would like to see you censored or silenced, you need to back up all your material frequently and do your research on censorship-free platforms, so that if you get taken down, you can be back up and posting on a suitable new platform as quickly as possible.  I do.

Christianity makes real morality impossible.

It's OK, and even admirable, to be ordinary.

Group social events are difficult for many of us; for autistic people, they're impossible.

New research on self-assembling molecules helps us understand how life began.

Here's the background on NASA's successful DART mission, a big step toward making planetary defense a reality.

The growing popular disdain for expertise has consequences.

People who believe this story exist.

Facebook seems to be turkeying out as users decamp to TikTok, the spyware platform controlled by fascist China.

See video of a storm surge in Florida.  Maybe it's divine retributionMore video here.

Brazilians don't have much patience with thieves.

A Russian man eagerly goes to the military recruitment office.

Inflation is being driven by greed at the top, not by wages -- and not by Biden.

The far right wallows in lunacy, laced with anti-Semitism.

Another young life is destroyed by ideology (found via Aunt Polly).

US workers are ready to stand up for their rights in Striketober.

Biden has a 33% lead among..... voters who don't much like Biden.

Right-wing ideology leads to dehumanization.

All who value freedom must take a stand against the new inquisitors.

Those who leave hard-line Christianity need to come to terms with the harm they did when they were believers.

"Ukrainian-occupied territories".

There are good reasons why the Supreme Court is losing legitimacy with the people.

We demand teachers who will pander to our delusions!

Biden's presidency has seen more accomplishments than the public gives credit for.

Drugstores are shelving fake medications alongside real ones.

Most low-paid US workers still aren't getting paid sick time, and union-busting efforts continue.

The Republican attack on abortion isn't playing well with swing voters.

Lindsey Graham appears to be delusional, and wingnuts use veterans as a distraction.

Corporate America is pulling out of fascist China -- and the US is seeing a domestic manufacturing boom (found via Angry Bear).

There's a colossal loophole in our laws on reporting child abuse.

Republican support for Trump has dropped by 20 points since 2020 (found via Reaganite Independent).

Money doesn't help a politician win as much as most believe, though it can serve as a useful indicator of support.

The extremists of the left and right aren't real patriots -- another group are.

Draconian anti-abortion laws are highly unpopular, even with most Republican voters.

Canada is dropping all covid-related border controls.

Here's what probably happened to the Nordstream pipeline.

Putin has not even bothered to define the borders of the Ukrainian territory he "annexed".  He's losing touch with reality.

Victims of Russian torture and rape in Ukraine include children (found via Reaganite Independent).

The Russian Orthodox Church is ratcheting up its support for the war against Ukraine.

Russians continue to be unhappy with the new mobilization.  War supporters are getting a wake-up call.

The West should not fear the fall of Putin.

The Iranian theocracy is setting up special courts for protesters, but women remain defiant.  It's time to recognize that the oppression of women is part of the theocracy's very identity.

The people fight back against the enforcers.  Remember those who have died for freedom.

Women-only spaces are proliferating in South Korea, due to a surge in creepy male behavior.

More links at Fair and Unbalanced and Angry Bear.

My own posts this week:  a video on two strange visitors, the over-use of labeling, and images for Blasphemy Day International.

o o o o o

Putin's "annexations" of occupied Ukrainian territory are meaningless.  He did this with Crimea in 2014 (annexation after a fake referendum), and yet during the current war the Ukrainians have attacked targets in Crimea several times, without any issue arising that they are carrying the war to Russian territory.  Everybody knows Crimea isn't part of Russia.

[Image at top found via Hackwhackers.]

30 September 2022

For Blasphemy Day

September 30 is Blasphemy Day International, the date having been chosen in 2009 to commemorate the original publication of the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2005.  Its purpose is to affirm that freedom of expression must explicitly include the right to criticize, ridicule, and attack religious beliefs and ideas -- that religion is not granted any special exemption or sanctity different from any other kind of ideas.

Made by Pliny

Made by Pliny