Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist


Why didn’t Putin use nukes?


Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist


Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and make a push for Kyiv in February 2022 caused some international observers to speculate about his mental health. Russia’s defiance of international laws and sovereign borders in Europe provoked a strong reaction from the West, helping to unify Western nations. On the other hand, some have asked that if Putin was so clearly willing to defy these laws and norms regardless of the consequences, then why didn’t he just use nuclear weapons?

Watch the above video as Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan answers that question.

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The following is an excerpt from Peter’s June 17 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

For years I’ve warned that a war between Russia and Ukraine was inevitable, but why didn’t Putin just play the nuke card? As an add-on, we’ll also be touching on some new Russian alliances that could rub the U.S. the wrong way.

The Russians are no strangers to wars and territorial expansions, so despite having nukes, they still prefer their tried-and-true method of occupation. This may seem foolish given their nuclear capabilities, but the Russian goal is to establish a buffer they control easily, not a zone they have to patrol wearing hazmat gear.

The Ukraine war has also brought up conversations of Russian alliances with some unsavory characters, i.e. North Korea, Iran, and China. I’m really not too worried about these alliances either. The logistics alone make them all dealbreakers.

The conversation about the American-led global order being disrupted is less about Russia’s moves and more about how the Americans decide to proceed with their global strategies.

You’re someone who has famously for a long time predicted, and tried to warn people that not only is Russia’s war with Ukraine inevitable, but Russian National Security National Strategy Doctrine dictates that the Russians are likely to expand the war westward from Ukraine. But given this framing of this conflict or this aggression as being from a national security standpoint, why does Russia need to do this? They have such a large nuclear arsenal? And I guess part of it maybe tagalong would be why is Russia enduring what it is in Ukraine, if it has nukes is that sort of a fact that we can revolving things? The non nuke approach has been the Russian strategy for a lot longer than we’ve had new. So there’s always that little inertia thing in terms of people’s minds. But one of the things that the Russians have discovered since 1990s, they thought they thought that they could do this on the cheap, that they could infiltrate societies used to disinformation, use plants, bribe people, and basically break the democratic processes and the strategic commitments of countries from Estonia, to Bulgaria, to Azerbaijan, Tajikistan. And what they’ve discovered is a just twist every one off. The idea was that they could get all the strategic goodies that they thought they needed without actually having to occupy the places and that has fallen apart everywhere, except for Belarus. And so the question then is, can we threaten people to not take strategic decisions that we don’t like so the United States, we’re going to nuke you, unless you give us an aircraft carrier.


That doesn’t fucking fly. And that’s basically the strategy that you’re recommending here is that we, as they threaten countries, between them and the Western world, in order for them to do exactly what Moscow wants.


The Russians have discovered very, very clearly that the only way to make someone do what you want is to occupy them. And while we in the West might not see our way of life as threatening the existence of the Russian state, they obviously have a different opinion on that.


The only time the Russians ever, ever felt secure, is after World War Two, when Stalin succeeded in conquering all the buffer states and concrete, all of the access points into the Russian heartland. And that held until 1992. And the Russians are desperate to have that back. Unfortunately, for them, the only way they can have that back is to by occupying countries with a combined population of more than their own population, that’s not going to fly in those countries. It’s not going to fly in the West, it’s not going to fly in the United States. And so we have a war, Russia invasion of Ukraine has pushed Moscow to seek some non traditional materials, supply alliances or partnerships with some of the country’s most antagonistic to American leadership in the world and think about North Korea. It’s, you know, in a tighter economic embrace with China, it’s getting drones from Iran. Do we see the potential for an emergence of a Moscow LED?


Counter NATO, and I think, you know, we’ve seen this once before, it was the USSR but North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, so Cuba into the midst to, um, it’s Friday, usually needs these, I hesitate to call them powers, but there’s this assembly of an American Street project, the bad guys together, present a considerable credible, worrisome threat to the American led global order. No, well, I mean, I don’t think the American led global orders doing that greater, it’s gonna last that much longer. But no, I don’t think this is what’s going to tear it down. Keep in mind that even at the height of the Cold War, the only Soviet ally that ever deployed troops outside of its own country, was Cuba, and that was to Angola. You never had Polish troops in Romania, Romania troops in Eastern Germany.


And so even at the height of Soviet dominance, they were never able to pull this off. From a purely logistical point of view, forget political or economic. So you might have places like North Korea and China and Russia and Iran and Cuba, not liking how things are going here or there in the world. But then deploying is in completely different situation. In addition, keep in mind that while Russia has figured out how to deploy a small number of troops and things like Wagner, China has only ever had one deployment outside of its home country that’s in Djibouti. That barrel barely counts, North Korea’s never done it ever. Cuba is not nearly as powerful now as they were 30 years ago. So the capacity just isn’t there and why interest, the coordination, much less the deployment capacity. Now, the dangerous the American led order are primarily in the United States from interest. And I still still still see the biggest danger to that order will be when the United States wakes up one day and realizes that the countries that are benefiting most from its presence, or the countries that it is most opposed to, because without America providing global naval coverage for civilian shipping, there is no Russian energy industry, there is no Chinese manufacturing sector, there is no Irini trade. There’s not even anything for Cuba. And if the US starts to use its navy to interfere with those flows, instead of protecting those flows, we’re in a very different world the next day, and the countries that the United States thinks of as the problems are gone the day after. Thank you very much for your time, Peter. I enjoyed the conversation. And thank you for all of our subscribers and followers for your questions. Please continue to send them in. And I look forward to having a conversation like this with you again. Thank you. Take care.


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