Global Security Mandates Victory in Ukraine

Global Security Mandates Victory in Ukraine

Stopping Russia in Ukraine will translate into sustained deterrence in other hotspots around the world. 


Comprehending that Russia is in inexorable decline due to its endemic corruption and its demographic collapse, Putin covets the natural gas and coal of the Donbas and Ukraine’s untouched oil fields that may be opened to fracking. “Also sought are Ukraine’s warm-water ports and pipelines that Putin seeks to control permanently,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

America and the West must acknowledge the centrality of hydrocarbon energy to world geopolitics and to humanity’s ability to adapt. A cornerstone of life, adaptation results from prosperity, which is made possible through the use of fossil fuels.


Russia and China understand this. Many advanced countries, however, do not, for we have become enraptured by unrealistic narratives. Energy is the fundamental basis for everything we consume. If energy prices spiral further, the economies of all nations will collapse, leading to a massive worldwide recession and authoritarian regimes coalescing their power in a time of strife.

Had the current administration maintained American energy dominance rather than prostrate itself to radicals, the United States could have led the way in securing the world’s hydrocarbon needs during the prelude to this war. America abdicated this vital role due to President Biden’s actions to restrict hydrocarbon development on our continent, causing the war in Ukraine to compound the pain that consumers feel. We must not send America’s military into this war, but we are compelled to aid Ukraine, for to do so is in America’s manifest interest.


Vladimir Putin abrogated the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for the elimination of Kyiv’s nuclear arsenal. This treachery provided a stepping stone for Russia’s strategy, which, in Ukraine, has sought victory at any cost.

Putin has endeavored to compensate for his nation’s military failures, as demonstrated in the cities and steppes of Ukraine, with nuclear threats. The Kremlin realizes that an attack with conventional weapons against any NATO state will result in the overwhelming defeat of Russia’s forces. Moscow, however, believes, with some justification, that the West is hobbled by indecision. This is why Putin asserted Russia’s nuclear might through explicit threats. We must not succumb to Putin’s or his successor’s disingenuous ploys.

The Biden administration’s fear of escalation is, in fact, inherently destabilizing. It demonstrates weakness, which the Kremlin uses to its advantage. Fear has set the stage for increased carnage in Ukraine, a war that could have been won quickly by Kyiv if President Biden had provided weapons of decisive lethality expeditiously.

The progression from clandestine assaults or limited incursions to war may or may not be recognized when such acts occur. The first use of a weapon of mass destruction may immediately change the battlespace, remain undetected, or be denied and concealed to stem escalation.

The use of a tactical nuclear weapon may be seen as limited employment of an unprecedented battlefield weapon, or it may signal an escalation toward an apocalyptic nuclear conflagration. Nuclear war must be averted, but we cannot do so unless America and our allies possess the full range of arms that can deter an adversary’s nuclear options at any potential stage of conflict. The war in Ukraine underlines the inadequacy of NATO’s tactical nuclear forces.

Should we lack the capability or will at a specific level of escalation, this will be exploited by an adversary either in an actual war or in the preliminary preparation of the battlespace. Putin’s avowed willingness to use nuclear weapons in the context of the war in Ukraine constituted his ploy to bolster the perceived military capacity of Russia, which has proven insufficient in a conventional war. The equation of war was thus posed by Putin to be viewed through the prism of Russia’s superiority in the number of tactical nuclear weapons it deploys. This stratagem was articulated to endeavor to deter the West’s actions in support of Ukraine.

Tactical nuclear weapons may be considered battlefield armaments. In general, they possess lower yield and reduced range in comparison to strategic nuclear weapons. However, there is no hard line that separates tactical nuclear weapons from strategic arms in that their labels pertain to their use and their characteristics, though arms control treaties have attempted to delineate acute differences between the two classes of weapons.


A tactical nuclear weapon employed by a belligerent against a civilian population center would immediately be classified as a strategic attack, for the protection of a nation’s citizenry is paramount in any democracy. A tactical nuclear weapon used to attack a key communication or energy node may present a gray area. Depending on the nature and circumstances of the attack, the affected nation may construe it as either strategic or tactical in nature.

A leader’s statements, a nation’s force structure, the choice of the delivery system, the yield of the weapon, the target, and the context or stage of the battle in which the strike occurs all weigh upon the determination of the nature of the assault and the appropriate response. Given these factors in assessing the quality of a nuclear attack, the range of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons our adversaries hold must be met with reciprocal and countervailing capabilities. This is necessary to support deterrence and to provide the means to respond in a limited way without increasing the scale of conflict. Every step upon the ladder of nuclear escalation increases the likelihood of a general nuclear exchange.

The employment of a low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon by Moscow in Ukraine is possible but extremely unlikely, in part because of the many layers of military command and control between a political decision by Putin to employ a tactical nuclear weapon and its actual use by Russia’s armed services. The oft-repeated threat of employment by Putin is a sign of weakness that should not deter NATO’s support of Ukraine.

On June 2, 2020, Russia’s president promulgated Executive Order 355, titled “Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence.” This document is the Russian Federation’s public description of its nuclear policies.

Most of Putin’s executive order concerns the employment of nuclear weapons by Russia in response to a nuclear strike. There are, however, exceptions. The document states, “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.” 

In the case of Ukraine and in the case of any independent nation that Russia’s military threatens, the United States must warn the Kremlin that actions to liberate parts of Ukraine held by Russia under the charade of false referenda or areas in other nations, such as Transnistria, do not constitute an attack on Russia, for Putin’s claims of dominion are false. To provide teeth to this doctrine of nonrecognition, we must hold China accountable economically and financially if Putin were to detonate a nuclear weapon, for China has facilitated the Kremlin’s onslaught against Ukraine.

China has not condemned this assaultive war nor made it difficult by imposing sanctions on Russia. Instead, it continues to purchase Russia’s energy and minerals in vast quantities. If the Kremlin should employ a nuclear weapon, China would be incentivized to attack Taiwan, for the Chinese Communist Party would believe that America’s attention would be focused on Europe, conveying enhanced freedom of action to China’s military.

Deterrence is a concept often asserted but infrequently grasped.  In my new book, Pillars for Freedom, I wrote, “The concept of deterrence may be defined as the prevention of aggression due to the fear of unacceptable counteraction. It is to avert armed conflict by the establishment of the certitude that any first strike by a belligerent force will be unsuccessful in its aims and be disastrous for the aggressor.” 

I further explained that “Unilateral restraint can signal weakness, which may begin a dangerous cascade of responses by nations that believe they are unbound.” Deterrence, however, need not be realized just by a palisade of arms: Economic tools may, at times, also deter aggression.

Chinese dependency on bilateral trade dwarfs ours; this fact underscores the credibility of this deterrent.  After Putin first threatened to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, China should have been put on notice by the Biden administration. Our president should have declared that if China’s client resorts to nuclear arms in its war against Ukraine, our nation will terminate trade and capital investments involving China, devastating its economy, as part of our multidimensional response. 

There is no public indication that the Biden administration adopted this prudent course to promote deterrence. It is thus imperative that China understand that a Republican administration will hold it accountable for Russia’s use of any nuclear weapon. 

The war in Ukraine is a clarion call. Before us, we see the interdependence of the four pillars of national power: our strategic and tactical nuclear forces, which deter escalation; our economic security, which must protect the American worker and farmer; our requirement for energy dominance, which deflates our adversaries as it fuels our might; and our conventional forces and alliances, which must block the ambitions of those who seek freedom’s destruction.