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Putin detonating a nuclear bomb

WASHINGTON — Senators reacted with alarm to a brand new report that steered Russian President Vladimir Putin may deploy a small, focused nuclear bomb as his troops get slowed down in a pricey, drawn-out battle in opposition to defiant Ukrainian fighters.

One key senator, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., stated he believed such an assault may drive NATO allies, together with the United States, to invoke their collective protection below Article 5 of the alliance’s constitution and retaliate in opposition to Russia — particularly if nuclear fallout drifts over the Ukrainian border and kills or sickens civilians dwelling in Poland or different NATO international locations.  

“As you detonate a nuclear weapon inside of Ukraine depending on what it is they detonate, even in a demonstration, that would spread radioactive material that would cross borders potentially,” said Rubio, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who frequently tweets his analysis of the Russian invasion. 

“If radioactive material blows across the Polish border, they would argue they’ve been attacked,” he added.

If radioactive materials blows throughout the Polish border, they’d argue they’ve been attacked.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“Radiation kills people; it certainly creates long-term health problems,” he continued. “So we’re dealing in uncharted territory at that point. The danger in this process always is that … someone will do something that they don’t consider to cross the line. But the people they’re aiming at do consider it to be crossing a certain line. And that’s how you find yourself in escalations.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a embellished Iraq War veteran who serves on the Armed Services Committee, agreed with Rubio: “If any of the fallout from that drifts over, I mean, that could be considered to be an attack” on NATO allies. 

Duckworth said she needed to study the issue more before commenting further on such a sensitive topic. But Article 5 stipulates that an attack on any NATO country is an attack on all of its members.

Any mention of nuclear warfare spurs images of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II more than 75 years ago. The twin atomic bombs flattened those Japanese cities, killing tens of thousands of civilians and creating massive mushroom clouds that could be seen for miles.

But a New York Times story on Monday detailed how Putin, feeling cornered in the conflict with Ukraine, could detonate a smaller, tactical nuclear weapon to try to gain the upper hand in a nearly monthlong war in which Russia has suffered significant and embarrassing military losses.

Experts told the newspaper that Putin could fire a nuclear weapon at an uninhabited area or over the North Sea in a bid to deter NATO allies and get Ukraine to surrender. In recent weeks, Putin himself has referred to Russia as “one of the most powerful nuclear states” and ordered his generals to place Russia’s nuclear forces on “special regime of combat duty alert.” 

“I think it would take us into a place we have not been since Nagasaki, where an actual nuclear device was intentionally detonated as part of a military campaign, even if it wasn’t directed at specific targets,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., told NBC News. “So that’s crossing a huge red line. And I think the whole world would be not just shocked, but convinced of the irresponsibility of Putin.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who traveled to Poland and Germany over the weekend to speak with Ukrainian refugees and U.S. troops, argued that there is no such thing as a “small” nuclear bomb.

Such a weapon would inflict “generational damage” on the region, whether it is deployed over a populated area or not, said Capito, who formerly led a Senate subcommittee on clean air and nuclear safety.

Rubio, who is a member of the “Gang of Eight” lawmakers who receive the most sensitive classified intelligence briefings, said he does not believe a Russian nuclear attack is “imminent.” But he said going nuclear is in Russia’s playbook and is an option that Rubio has been thinking about since the start of Putin’s military campaign.

“Their military doctrine that they’ve exercised anticipates that if they’re losing a conventional war against NATO, that they would detonate a nuclear weapon or even use one against NATO troops to sort of escalate and force everyone to the negotiating table,” Rubio told reporters. 

“I’m not seeing something that signifies that will be imminent, however that’d be a fairly dramatic second within the historical past of the world,” he stated. 

Amid speak of a possible nuclear assault, President Joe Biden this week is making ready to journey to Europe, the place he’ll be a part of different NATO leaders in Brussels after which go on to Poland, the place he’ll thank leaders for taking in tons of of hundreds of Ukrainian refugees.

Russia’s nuclear capabilities nearly actually will likely be among the many points that Biden discusses together with his European allies. Speaking to reporters on the White House on Tuesday, nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan stated the U.S. has not modified its “nuclear posture” following Putin’s current threats however is “constantly monitoring for that contingency.”

“We take it as seriously as one could possibly take it,” Sullivan stated. 

While the U.S. is within the strategy of sending Ukraine tons of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in deadly weapons and different army help, Biden has been cautious to not escalate tensions with a nuclear-armed Russia. The commander-in-chief has rejected determined pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for NATO allies to impose a no-fly zone or ship fighter jets, predicting such actions would spark “World War III.”

On Monday, Biden gave a speech warning that Putin may use chemical weapons in opposition to Ukraine now that his “back is against the wall.” Biden additionally warned U.S. firms and different entities to harden their defenses in opposition to potential cyberattacks by Russia. 

“The magnitude of Russia’s cyber capacity is fairly consequential and it’s coming,” Biden stated.

Reed, the top of the Armed Services panel, predicted {that a} wave of latest cyberattacks would seemingly hit the U.S. and different Ukrainian allies earlier than Putin turned to a nuclear weapon. He stated it’s unclear if cyberattacks would set off a NATO Article 5 response provided that they’ve been ongoing for years. 

“I would assume that cyberattacks would precede any type of nuclear attack given that there’s a certain deniability, and it can be managed much more adroitly, the targets, the impacts, etc.,” Reed stated within the interview. 

“Cyber is just a gray area. … There’s a line between state-directed, state-organized and just criminal elements everywhere, but still, this cyber battle has been going on constantly at every moment.”

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