The “limitless” friendship that Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin enacted last March in Moscow actually included a flickering red line. The Chinese president reportedly strongly warned his Russian counterpart against resorting to nuclear weapons, even tactical ones. This was confirmed by the Financial Times on Wednesday, based on undisclosed Chinese “advisors” and “former officials”.
The Kremlin, however, denies that Xi Jinping, in one of his rare outings abroad since the pandemic, marked the ground in such a way. “It’s a fiction,” said the spokesman, Dimitri Peskov.
However, experts warn that if the Russian military were to find itself hemmed in by an ever-increasing and sophisticated flow of weapons from 29 NATO countries – all but Turkey and Hungary – the temptation to use tactical nuclear weapons could become Irresistible.
These could be used to stop the hypothetical advance of enemy troops. The most eminent political scientist of the American Royalist School, John Mearsheimer, has no doubt that Moscow would resort to these weapons should its dominance of Crimea come under threat. Russian military doctrine provides for the use of a nuclear weapon in the event that the very survival of the Russian state is in question.
In any case, after his meeting with Xi Jinping – and recently – Putin has declared in various forums that he does not intend to use nuclear weapons “because there is no need. We are incinerating the Leopard tanks and when the F-16 fighters arrive we will destroy them as well.”
The aforementioned Mearsheimer considers that the enormous difficulty of the Ukrainian offensive in overcoming the Russian entrenchment has at least one positive aspect. He leads the world away from the nuclear abyss.
Be that as it may, for months, in countries close to Ukraine, the demand for certain iodine pills, supposedly capable of inhibiting the worst effects of nuclear radiation on the thyroid gland, has skyrocketed. In Eastern Europe it is still fresh how the Chernobyl accident triggered thyroid cancer cases, especially in children.
The main concern is now in another Ukrainian nuclear power plant, which is also the largest in Europe. Control of the six Zaporizhia reactors was wrested from Ukrainian soldiers by the Russians in March last year, and since then both armies have been playing with fire, using heavy artillery in their immediate vicinity.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has accused Russia of “mining” the roof of the facility with the alleged aim of “causing an accident”, allegedly to “stop the Ukrainian advance”.
These accusations have not been corroborated by observers on the ground from the International Atomic Energy Agency. They have also been rejected by Moscow, which warns against “a false flag attack.” Kyiv has failed to convincingly explain what interest Russia might have in radioactively contaminating its own troops, in the Russophone and partly Russophile areas it already controls or aspires to control if the war drags on.
Without leaving this crazy scenario, it must be remembered that, in case it wants to resort to nuclear blackmail, Russia has at its disposal precision hypersonic missiles capable of destroying other nuclear power plants located precisely in the most nationalist areas controlled by Kyiv.
Be that as it may, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health issued emergency advice this week for those who live in a radius close to Zaporizhia. However, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov – 37 years old – after fueling suspicions of Russian sabotage for weeks, now affirms – in an interview published in The Times – that the risk related to Zaporizhia “begins to decrease”. .
British sources quoted by the Financial Times are considering the possibility of a “moderate” nuclear incident, far from the catastrophic proportions of Chernobyl, a plant from another era, with a very different design and security measures.
The exchange of accusations between the two belligerent sides is not new, since it already occurred in the recent case of the bombing or bombing of the Nova Kakhovkva dam and, even earlier, in the blowing up of the German-Russian gas pipelines Nordstream 1 and 2 .
China, which last year raised its trade with Russia to a record level (175,000 million euros) does not want, in any case, to worsen its relations with Europe. Looking the other way in an invasion scenario is not the same as doing so in a nuclear holocaust scenario. Likewise, among the five formal nuclear powers, only China explicitly rejects in its doctrine being the first to push the button.
In any case, while the limits of the possible are being exceeded in the destructive escalation in Ukraine, a red line has already been crossed, with the supply, by the British, of depleted uranium ammunition. This has a greater capacity to pierce the armor of tanks but, as was seen after the invasion of Iraq, it also leaves consequences for decades, with the contamination of the air, soil and water and the multiplication of malformed fetuses.
The British leaks come at the same time that US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen begins a rare four-day visit to Beijing. She was preceded, two weeks ago, by her Foreign Affairs colleague, Antony Blinken, in another attempt to recalibrate relations between the two leading economic powers, very rarefied on account of Taiwan.
The Bosporus and NATO
Zelenski will meet this Friday with Erdogan in Istanbul
The new peak of tension in Ukraine coincides with the visit scheduled for this Friday by President Volodimir Zelenski to Istanbul, to meet with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The explicit objective is to save the Ukrainian grain transit agreement, which expires on the 17th, with no interest in renewing it on the Russian side. But the Ukrainian president – today in Bulgaria – could also probe other aspects related to the war that absorbs him. It could also be added to the chorus trying to soften Erdogan’s refusal to facilitate Sweden’s entry into NATO, on the eve of the Vilnius summit.
Yesterday, in an unprecedented move, under its new anti-terror legislation, a Swedish judge sentenced an exiled Kurdish politician to jail for extorting the so-called revolutionary tax from his compatriots. After serving a sentence of four and a half years, the prisoner should be deported to Turkey, where he also has pending cases. In another change of attitude, Stockholm is also discussing a ban on public burning of the Koran and other holy books.
Finally, it should be remembered that in March last year, in Istanbul, with Turkish mediation, the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators prepared to sign an agreement that would have frozen the war. Although Russia withdrew from northern Ukraine, as promised, Bucha’s corpses prevented its ratification and relaunched the war, racking up hundreds of thousands more victims, until today, when peace plans do not seem to appear on any table.