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Russia's invasion of Ukraine: 'Putin is panicked, feeling backed into a corner'

President Vladimir Putin did not expect the support Ukraine is receiving from former Soviet nations, the EU, and some Nato countries, Natalie Jordaan writes. File picture: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo.

President Vladimir Putin did not expect the support Ukraine is receiving from former Soviet nations, the EU, and some Nato countries, Natalie Jordaan writes. File picture: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo.

Published Mar 7, 2022

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by Natalie Jordaan

Although the nuclear deterrence forces of any nuclear country are technically always “on alert”, for Russia to actively make a threat like this is not acceptable at all in the modern international arena, especially as it possesses approximately half of the world’s nuclear warheads.

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Already, many of President Vladimir Putin’s actions have been deemed illegal and are being put forth to the International Court of Justice.

The court was originally established precisely for dealing with situations where international law is breached or where asymmetrical warfare is employed.

There can never be a positive outcome from the use of nuclear weapons, and such an action would be extremely unwise.

Unfortunately, Putin’s behaviour does not give us much faith in his acting rationally. He knows how much could be lost from involving nuclear.

However, with the Russian economy plummeting, and Russia not yet getting a foot-hold in Ukraine, he is panicked, feeling backed into a corner.

He refuses to lose face, even though he is realising his decision to take Ukraine was reckless. Putin is also increasingly losing what little support he had from the Russian public.

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When deciding to invade Ukraine, he thought the world would turn a blind eye, as was the case with the Crimean Peninsula and Donbass. Putin did not expect the support Ukraine is receiving from former Soviet nations, the EU, and some Nato countries.

His mentioning nuclear weapons is the voice of a man who realises he is busy losing. He is running Russia into a shambles and further ruining his own reputation. Putin might feel he has nothing more to lose at this point, showing disregard for the safety of others, both in his own country and internationally.

So, Belarus and Russia? Belarus and Russia have a co-dependent relationship.

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Russia lost the support of former Soviet Union countries that have been increasingly bonding with Europe and the West and it is determined to keep Belarus close.

Aside from the fact that Belarus relies heavily on Russia for economic reasons, Belarus also knows it cannot survive another nuclear situation. Yes, the Chernobyl incident happened in Ukraine but 60-70% of the nuclear fallout landed in Belarus, with a devastating aftermath.

Belarus was arguably the country that suffered most after the Chernobyl disaster, with most of the nuclear particles (in particular, caesium) having half-lives of up to 30 years, meaning that some contaminated areas will not be entirely cleared for anything up to 180 to 320 years. Belarus hopes Russia will not push nuclear war, because the retaliation to such a move would be beyond devastating to all countries, including Belarus.

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It is interesting that Russian soldiers immediately seized the Chernobyl site upon invading Ukraine last week.

To give an idea of what kind of a threat even just the Chernobyl plant still poses today, the radiation levels are estimated to be as high as 10 000 röntgens per hour in certain areas (500 röntgens over five hours being lethal). The average background radiation in most cities is usually 20-50 micro-röntgens per hour.

In comparison, although nuclear weapons, of course, cause a lot more damage and destruction, the half-lives of the nuclear fall-out are around eight days, and radioactivity lasts around one to five years.

This does not mean less destruction, in humanitarian terms. But it is why Hiroshima, a city that I had the pleasure of visiting, is today a blooming and vibrant city, restored to it’s former beauty, and regarded as safe and no longer affected by excessive radiation.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko is not really keen on sending troops into Ukraine. A dictator himself, he is aware of a lack of loyalty towards him. Also, why would Belarusian soldiers agree to fight Putin’s war? However, Lukashenko is under the boot of Putin, and is feeling the pressure from all sides.

If the Kremlin continues its current path, Russia could become no more than another North Korea. It is worth noting that the majority of Russians do not support Putin and his war. There is deep affection and camaraderie between Russian and Ukrainian people. Sanctions on Russia at this point are not aimed at Russian citizens, but rather at the Kremlin.

Special note: To my dear friend (and university roommate) Julia Lyubimova, in Kiev. I pray for you and your family’s safety. I also pray for all other friends in the region.

Natalie Jordaan

* Jordaan has a master’s degree from Shandong University in China. She specialises in conflict negotiation and mediation. Her academic background focused on nuclear power and nuclear warfare, primarily in countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Japan, China and the US.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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