THE US is growing increasingly concerned that Russia will launch an invasion of Ukraine in the near future. So, if this scenario were to pass, what options do they have at their disposal to retaliate with?
By James Gray
12:53, Fri, Jan 28, 2022 | UPDATED: 12:53, Fri, Jan 28, 2022
Russia: Putin ‘will face serious consequences’ says Joe Biden
For a number of months now, fears have escalated in the West that Russia could attack its ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine, having deployed around 100,000 soldiers to the border the two countries share. On Thursday the US threatened to cut off a key gas pipeline that would significantly impact Russia’s economy. But could nuclear weapons also be considered as a genuine alternative to strike back at a Russian invasion?
Cut off gas pipeline
The US has now threatened, in the event Ukraine is attacked, to halt the opening of a key pipeline that would send Russian gas to Western Europe.
Nord Stream 2 would run from Russia to Germany, and on Thursday officials in Berlin said the project could be subjected to sanctions.
Measuring 1,225km (760-mile) in length the pipeline took five years to build and cost $11bn (£8bn).
Russia designed it to double their gas exports to Germany, with the line itself running under the Baltic Sea.
However, it is not yet operational as regulators said in November it does not comply with German law and suspended its approval.
The threat from the White House comes after Western allies said they will target Russia’s economy if it invades Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden has insisted he will not use American forces to directly defend Ukrainian territory against a possible Russian invasion.
But that is no guarantee that the two sides won’t come to blows.
In fact, current and former officials and experts on both sides of the Atlantic worry that were the situation to get out of control, the world’s two biggest nuclear powers could stumble into a deadly confrontation.
One former senior US Republican official told Politico: “The Russians have something like 4,000 [tactical nuclear weapons] and they have an ‘escalate to win’ nuclear doctrine, which says ‘we use nuclear weapons first if the conventional conflict starts to spin out of our favour’.”
Meanwhile, Nikolai Sokov, a former Russian Foreign Ministry official, said he considers the risk of a conflict over Ukraine spilling into the nuclear arena as “extremely remote”.
Nonetheless, he admitted it’s conceivable one or both sides could dangerously miscalculate.
Mr Sokov gave the example of an accidental clash between Russian and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) aircraft or warships, which he said “may trigger direct confrontation and then it could roll”.
The Kremlin has denied it has any intention of invading Ukraine but last month submitted a series of security demands to the West, including that Ukraine is banned from entering Nato.
To Russia’s displeasure, the US rejected this key demand, while offering what it called a “serious diplomatic path forward” to Moscow.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday the US response left “little ground for optimism”, but added: “There always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it’s in the interests of both us and the Americans”.