Discipline and restraint
How should the West respond if Russia drops tactical nuke in Ukraine?
The conventional wisdom says “with discipline and restraint,” which translates into more sanctions against Putin and further isolation of Russia, according to former NATO deputy secretary-general Rose Gottemoeller.
Yeah, right. Sanctions. Because those are working so well—that is, if your goal is to further punish the average American wage-earner at the grocery store and gas-pump. (Meanwhile, the Russian ruble has almost fully recovered its value since the start of the war and Russian troops are still in-country. Hmm…)
And in the wake of a nuclear strike? Really? That’s it? You’re grounded? No more Xbox for you? (Double hmm…)
Another idea is to make Russia understand that the use of nuclear weapons—any nuclear weapons—in Ukraine, even a small tactical nuke, would be considered an attack on neighboring NATO countries sure to suffer under the prevailing winds of radioactivity, which would then trigger Article V (that an attack on one member is an attack on all) and World War III.
As a bluff, this might be effective. In real-world terms, not so much—if only because, in the event that the Russians actually did drop a lowercase “big one” in Ukraine, it would almost certainly spark an all-out intercontinental supercalifragilistic thermonuclear war. Likely within 18-24 hours.
On the other hand, it doesn’t matter if we would actually do it—push the button—as long as the Russians, so deeply frozen in their Cold War mindset, believe we would do it. You know, “respond in kind…”