D.C. Debates: Fight Russian Nukes or Negotiate a Deal?

Peace activists wearing masks of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and newly elected US President Joe Biden pose with mock nuclear missiles in front of the US embassy in Berlin on January 29, 2021 in an action to call for more progress in nuclear disarmament. - The Russian parliament on …

The threat of nuclear war over Ukraine is rising fast, but there is minimal evidence President Joe Biden and his top deputies are willing to negotiate a peace deal with Russia.

“Intelligence analysts now believe that the probability of the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine has risen from 1-5 percent at the start of the war to 20-25 percent today,” according to Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director for President Barack Obama

“Washington and Moscow … are locked in an escalatory cycle that, along current trends, will eventually bring them into direct conflict and then go nuclear, killing millions of people and destroying much of the world,” wrote Jeremy Shapiro, the director of research at the European Council on Foreign Relations a U.S. State Department official under Obama.

“The world is headed for an outcome where we all are losers,” said Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow when the Soviet Union crashed in 1990.

A protester holds a placard warning of a nuclear disaster, during the demonstration. Thousands of protesters gathered outside Downing Street, central London,  in support of Ukraine as Russia continues its attack. (Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United States is directly at war with Russia, said Fiona Hill, the U.K.-born national security official who denounced President Donald Trump after working for him.

We’re not in a proxy war with Russia, just like we weren’t in a proxy war with Germany during World War I when we were trying to get German forces out of France and Belgium. It wasn’t a proxy war either when we were trying to get Germany out of Poland and all the other places that it invaded in Europe during World War II. We are trying to help Ukraine liberate itself, having been invaded by Russia.

But military experts, progressive advocates, business executives, and former officials are divided over whether the U.S. should force compromise negotiations or escalate by attacking Russia.

So far, Biden and his advisors insist they are not even trying to get Ukraine to make a deal, despite Russia’s simultaneous offers of negotiations and combat.

The debates are taking place while Russia’s army is being destroyed by U.S. weaponry — and Russia may try to stop the bleeding with a nuclear attack on Ukraine. Pavel Podvig, a Switzerland-based, Russian-born expert on Moscow’s nuclear weaponry, told BusinessInsider.com on October 15:

… instead of a small, “tactical” nuclear weapon, Russia would likely — if the purpose was to make a demonstration of its resolve to Kyiv and the West — elect instead to go big and destroy an entire city to achieve the necessary “shock.”

“You really would have to kill a lot of people,” Podvig said. “We are talking about tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people. And you would have to do that very much in cold blood.”

But Biden’s allies argue the U.S. must defeat the intimidating power of nuclear weaponry by disregarding Vladimir Putin’s threats.

The once-moderate Panetta, for example, is urging the U.S. defeat the power of Russia’s nuclear weapons by promising to attack Russia’s forces in Ukraine if Putin uses nuclear weapons:

the use of any nuclear weapon is so unthinkable that Putin cannot be allowed to continue his threats without understanding the full consequences to him and his regime. He says he is “not bluffing.” We cannot afford to “bluff” either.

If he makes a reckless decision to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the U.S. will respond with direct military force against Russian troops waging the war in Ukraine, ensuring Putin’s defeat there. We must be prepared to use U.S. military assets, including combat aircraft and cruise missile strikes, to ensure that Putin cannot threaten Ukraine with nuclear weapons. While the administration will need to be vague about what particular forces it will deploy, it should communicate that it could include the full range of conventional capabilities we have in our arsenal, which Putin knows would devastate his military.

Hill declared in a report by Politico:

This is pure nuclear blackmail. There can’t be a compromise based on him not setting off a nuclear weapon if we hand over Ukraine … We have to pull all the diplomatic stops out. We have to ensure that he’s not going to have the effect that he wants with this nuclear brinkmanship.

But a direct U.S. attack on Russia may start a massive nuclear war, countered Shapiro.

They will see a direct NATO attack on Russia or Russian forces as confirmation of their view that the West intends to destroy the Russian regime and [to] kill all its leaders … Facing the prospect of death if they do not act to save their regime, Russian leaders will risk launching further conventional and tactical nuclear strikes on NATO troop formations and Ukrainian supply operations.

A compromise is needed before Russia destroys Ukraine, said Matlock, the former ambassador:

The war might have been prevented — probably would have been prevented — if Ukraine had been willing to abide by the Minsk agreement, recognize the Donbas as an autonomous entity within Ukraine, avoid NATO military advisors, and pledge not to enter NATO. Nevertheless, what was possible even as late as January 2022 may not be possible now. The Russian annexation of additional territory raises the stakes. But the longer the war continues the harder it is going to be to avoid the utter destruction of Ukraine.

“The security interests of the American people … [not Ukraine] should be the primary concern of any American government,” Matlock wrote.

Former President Donald Trump has also urged negotiations. “We must demand immediate negotiation of a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine. or we will end up in World War Three,” Trump told a rally in Mesa, Arizona, on Sunday, October 9.

Trump’s call for peace talks was matched by Admiral Mike Mullen, a former chief of staff at the Pentagon. “The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned,” he told ABC News.

Some business leaders are also urging peace talks. Elon Musk, for example, is calling for talks.

Any recognition of Russian motives and history are denounced as unacceptable, wrote venture capitalist David Sacks. This social-media mob is suppressing vital debate over nuclear war, he argued:

Thus, we get the argument that Putin is a madman who will kill indiscriminately to achieve his aims—but he is also somehow definitely bluffing about using nuclear weapons. And he’s only using that bluff because he’s losing the war—but if he’s not stopped in Ukraine, he will go on to conquer the rest of Europe.

“In the United States, commentators condemn those who even name this danger, fearing that doing so will weaken Western resolve,” Shapiro wrote on October 12.

“A new iron curtain is now being imposed on Russia — this time by Western policy,” said Matlock.

Hill, the former White House staffer, also argued that the war can and should end with a compromise:

Any compromise is, in any case, always at Ukraine’s expense because Putin has taken Ukrainian territory. If we think about World War I, World War II or the settlements in many other conflicts, they always involved some kind territorial disposition that left one side very unhappy.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are using U.S.-manned surveillance aircraft, as well as U.S.-provided heat-seeking missiles and satellite-guided “Excalibur” artillery shells to methodically locate and smash the Russian army, piece by piece.


Russia has little defense against this “Deep Battle” combination of high-tech weaponry — except a large quantity of World War II-style equipment and soldiers, plus its so-far unused stockpile of battlefield nuclear weapons.

The U.S. weaponry is primarily directed against Russian artillery, electronic jammers, and anti-aircraft vehicles, such as the Russian TOR vehicles:


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.