The greatest danger the United States faces in the ongoing Ukraine crisis is that somehow the situation will escalate to a level where one or the other side employs nuclear weapons. That may seem improbable at the moment, but if Russia were to invade eastern Ukraine or America sent forces to block such an invasion, the situation could escalate quickly. The stakes are high for both sides: Russia doesn’t want western military forces stationed within striking distance of Moscow, and America doesn’t want to risk dissolution of its most important alliance. A combination of bad intelligence, garbled communication, looming defeat and breakdown in the chain of command might lead one side or the other to contemplate use of nuclear weapons as a way of improving the odds of victory; both sides have nonstrategic nuclear weapons in the region, plus doctrine supporting their use in desperate circumstances. The possibility that nuclear weapons might be employed should not be dismissed. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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