Is Putin Losing the War, or is it Just Wishful Thinking?

Are threats to use nuclear weapons bluster or should you worry?

A Russian missile
A Russian missile seen during the strategic missile exercises in 2017, Image from

If you read the mainstream press, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization” of 300,000 reservists is a sign of desperation, a gamble, “a careful balancing act of a leader under pressure,” and many other pejoratives. You might have read that it is a sign Russia is losing the war, running out of weapons, and that poorly trained reservists used as cannon fodder won’t change that.

What you are unlikely to hear is that the 300,000 men show Putin’s commitment to winning and a lessening of the likelihood of a peace settlement. It’s also possible that the 300,000 number is a pretext, a cover for activating far more. If they swept up 500,000, who would know? Early reports from Russia are that the initial military activations go well beyond the announced mobilization of men under 36-years-old with prior military experience in certain military specialties.

The pundits say Putin is trying to please the hardliners without upsetting the man on the street. While there have been protests, Russian police stomped them out. hey arrested more than 1,300 protesters on the day of Putin’s announcement, an action authoritarian states like Russia do with regularity. The only way a protest can succeed is if it is hundreds of thousands strong or if local officials allow it.

If Putin was concerned about what the populace was thinking, he wouldn’t have sent personnel door-to-door to mobilize soldiers or take actions to stop young men from fleeing the country because those actions piss off the mothers and wives of soldiers. The tactics and the public response remind me of young men hiding under their mother’s skirts to avoid conscription during the Civil War. It didn’t work then and is unlikely to now.

The Nuclear Threat

Putin again threatened to use nuclear weapons, a threat which could rapidly spiral out of control if it came to pass. If Russia uses nuclear weapons, the U.S. has threatened to respond. That catapults this “special military operation” immediately into a nuclear war and probably will involve NATO, not just the U.S.

While the U.S. has left vague whether their response will use nukes, it’s clear that this is a possibility. Things could quickly escalate. Once the nuclear genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to go back to using just conventional weapons.

However you look at it, Putin’s threats bring the world close to the use of nuclear weapons than it has been since the end of World War II. That should concern preppers everywhere.

Threats to Putin

The UK newspapers, who always push the most positive war news possible, think Putin will be killed by his own generals if he orders the use of nuclear weapons. I think this is wishful thinking on their part. Let’s give Putin some credit. After surviving 30 years, He’s not going to make such a simple mistake.

Perhaps a graver concern for Putin is how the rest of the world would react. For example, will China condemn the use of nuclear weapons by Russia? Does the use of tactical nukes on the European battlefield change China’s calculation about invading Taiwan? Does it increase the chance that the U.S. could use tactical nukes against the Chinese navy or an invading force?

Nuclear Panic

The use of a handful of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, possibly launched by an artillery piece, would have a very limited physical impact on Europe. Yes, it would cause a large patch of destruction within the nuke’s area of impact and a circle of lesser destruction outside it, but the physical impact on someone living in France, Italy, or the UK would be negligible.

The psychological impact, however, would far outweigh the physical damage. Most of the Northern Hemisphere would likely see mass panic, which social media will immediately amplify and make worse. While the mass media would carry pronouncements of “be calm,” social media would cause people to run to the grocery stores to buy up everything in sight. Stock markets would crash. There could be bank runs. ATMs could run out of cash. There could be looting. The rich will bug out to their special hideaways. Enough people in large cities will leave that there will be temporary gasoline shortages and long lines on highways. Those who don’t bug out or have nowhere to go would probably stay home from work and school, with many cowering in their basements glued to cable news.

We should know in a few days if this will escalate to the use of ballistic missiles or if it will stay at a low level. A few days or weeks after the world does not end despite repeated use of low-level nuclear devices, things will begin to calm down. Then something escalatory will happen and the panic will set in again.

We recommend you read: What to Do if Nuclear War Breaks Out

World War III

Even a conventional war between NATO and Russia would have a lengthy negative impact on the world. Think about how bad things are now with the lack of food and energy from Russia, and think of what would happen if NATO joins the fight in Ukraine.

Even if they do not target Russia’s fleet, ports, factories, refineries, rail yards, and munition storage depots, just the injection of NATO tanks, air power, drones, missile batteries and anti-air capabilities would turn the tide against Russia’s forces. In this kind of conventional war, I expect NATO would gain air superiority and we’d see an intense bombing campaign designed to prevent Russia from effectively waging war in Europe. The danger is that this will trigger a larger nuclear response from Russia, regardless of whether a single NATO soldier sets foot across the Russian border.

Don’t Panic, but Don’t be Ignorant

Don’t shrug off the possibility Russia will use nuclear weapons in the next few months. Use this time to plan and prepare and to put yourself in as strong a position to survive the panic as well as the possibility of fallout or even EMP and the use of nuclear weapons in your general area.

Nuclear war is survivable if you are outside the target area. But explosions are just the beginning. You then have to survive the nuclear fallout and the societal fallout that follows. You need to be prepared for both.