Russia’s nuclear threat is haunting America and it allies. This fear is a corollary of a consolidated alliance between Russian state and religion specifically in the field of nuclear weapons. Thus Russia is more likely to give a nuclear blow this time than it was in the cold war.
The modern world might be taking a turn towards secularization but this shift instead of being structural rather is perfunctory. While military historically has been the source of hard power and culture a source of soft power, religion now a days is being exploited by the nation states to establish a special type of power called the sharp power that refers to the use of technological tools of communication in order to disseminate certain ideas that have the potential to underpin tensions, chaos and anarchy in the target societies.
The rise to power of right wing Hindutva in secular India and subjugation of Muslims by China and Europe in the name of counter terrorism stand out as main examples of this trend. Same has been the strategy of Kremlin in its conflict with Ukraine in specific and NATO in general. It has successfully maximized its might by deliberately consolidating its nuclear might with that of a religious threat.
While the west was planning to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia had launched a successful offensive against the religious and cultural identity of Ukraine; the same Ukraine from where the modern Russian Christian identity had sprouted in the late 10th century when Vladimir the King of Russ proselytized in Crimea. He then returned to Kiev and ordered the public to first get converted to Christianity and then get baptized. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the occasion with great cherish while referring to Crimea as cradle of Russian Christianity.
Prior to full scale invasion of its western neighbor, Putin justified his future assault by referring to it as a “war between the forces of light and evil”. His religious rhetoric of course enjoys a staunch support from Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill of Russia a decade ago termed the dictator as a miracle of God. Putin, as an orthodox Christian, is not a big fan of the modernization and secularization. Pertaining to his views, the turn towards secularization has denuded the euro Atlantic countries of the Christian values over which the actual western civilization was premised. Thus, Russia belongs neither to western nor Asian civilization, rather it is a unique society that is an emblem of a unique set of values underpinned by religious and conservative principles.
But what has stirred up a hornets’ nest for NATO in the ongoing conflict is not the individual conservative nature of Putin but the actual nexus of Russian State and Orthodox Church especially in the realm of the non-traditional weapons system.
Putin thinks that in order to protect and preserve the orthodox character of Russia, it must ensure its nuclear power and similarly for making the world see the Russian Little Boys as a credible threat, it must preserve the orthodox character of Russian identity. West hitherto had been dismissing the Russian guts to bring in the nuclear weapons in the war as it would be a suicide. But one thing that west has realized in its 2 decades long war with so called radical Islamic terrorism is that a man inspired by religious values has all the guts in the world to explode himself. Putin wants to cash on the same fear!
Putin has embarked upon a journey from where there is no coming back. The invasion either will lead him up to a victory or will weaken his grip over Russia to an extent that may lead up to his ousting from the scenes of Russian government. Thus the probability of a nuclear attack becomes very much high.
He may first get Russia withdrawn from nuclear test ban treaty allowing him to test more and more nuclear weapons. Next strategy will be to deploy nuclear war heads in Belarus, Syria and Kazakhstan. This way he would be able to match the America’s edge of having nukes across the border. These two steps will be followed by nuclear strikes on uninhabited zones of Ukraine and this will serve as a harbinger to a full scale nuclear war that would be a mutually assured destruction both for Russia and its adversaries.
One reason behind NATO’s denial to help Ukraine openly against Russia is the nuclear threat that becomes more credible when based on religious values. Strategy of Russia for repelling NATO is to scare it from intervening and arming Ukraine by the use of nuclear threat and force Kiev to bow down in front of Russian terms.
Russia and NATO mutually have entered a blind alley with the war in Ukraine. Both parties are equally non- impervious to the adverse consequences and just cannot afford to lose as it will cost them not just the place in international political hierarchy but also the prestige they hitherto had enjoyed mutually. There can only be one winner out of this war.
If west bows down in front of Russia, then the loss in Europe will cascade in Asia where China will cash on this loss and will take the shape of a more assertive state both economically and militarily. The loss for Russia will forcefully push it into the condition of post-world-war 1 Germany.
Putin will also surely face resistance from within as the sanctions put by US on Russia have all the capability to destroy the Russian economy thus making the economic condition of the masses abysmal. The religious, historical and cultural links of Russians with those of Ukrainians will also make the Russians stand against the atrocities being inflicted on their brothers. A messianic rhetoric will be helpful for Putin at that time, but will the public listen to such narrative? No one can tell as of now.
But Putin who calls the disintegration of Soviet Union the biggest catastrophe of 20th century also has in his mind the humiliation of Crimean War of 1853-56 when Christian West sided with Muslim Turks in their war against Christian Russia. Russia lost that war, but the Russia of then didn’t had nuclear weapons. Russia of now has them in abundance.
The piece is written by Editor of Youth Diplomacy Forum Khawaja Obaid ur Rehman. He can be reached out at firstname.lastname@example.org .