The main purpose of Russia's nuclear threats, which have become increasingly realistic, is to force Ukraine to the negotiating table, under unfavorable conditions, to avoid the full loss of Russian forces, security expert Indrek Kannik says
Appearing on Wednesday morning's edition of ETV show "Terevisioon", Kannik, who heads up the Tallinn-based International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), said: "During the current phase, a nuclear strike is not yet expected. But this threat is real, because Russia is losing in a conventional war and as a result does not have much else left. A nuclear threat is one option."
Kannik highlighted the fact that Russia is currently losing on almost every front or, in its best case scenario, the front remains stable. Russian troops have been forced to retreat both in eastern Ukraine - in the northern part of the Donbas region and Kharkiv Oblast, as well as in the south - in northern Kherson Oblast, on the west bank of the Dnipro River.
The nuclear threat most likely demonstrates that Moscow is running out of other options, Kannik said, adding that Russia still has other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical or biological weapons, at its disposal, while the possibility of instigating a real nuclear leak in a Ukrainian nuclear power plant is also present, he said.
"It is my belief that these threats are becoming more and more serious, even though they have been present since the beginning of the war. They are now also starting to show the initial, small steps in carrying it out, since should nothing materialize from this threat, it will be shrugged off, as it has been to some extent," he added.
Additionally, one way to increase pressure would be to conduct a nuclear weapons test somewhere near the border of Ukraine, Kannik said.
"Indeed, this is also one method they can use before launching a real nuclear strike. The idea behind such threats is to force Ukraine back to the negotiating table, either directly, or under Western pressure, with the aim of consolidating the current front line, since the Russians understand that this can only move eastwards, only back towards them. That's the logic, I think; what their thinking is now."
The West has, so far, responded adequately to Russia's threats, Kannik added:
"I have not seen panicky fear, which would be the worst response. The main goal of the Russians is to sow panic and fear so that the West will start forcing Ukraine into an unreasonable, unnecessary and useless peace agreement."
The Americans, along with the intelligence agencies of major European countries, should have a clear picture of Russia's nuclear preparations, he added.
"After all, the Americans have been following this very closely for decades. Considering the current satellite and other intelligence capabilities, I believe that the Americans can view the movement of Russian nuclear weapons and the decision-making process in quite some detail," Kannik said.
However, the US would probably not intervene if Russia organized a nuclear explosion as a advance warning, in which case the message to Moscow would simply be strengthened, namely that any real nuclear attack would be met with strong countermeasures.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots