Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, warned Wednesday that it couldn’t be ruled out that the war in Ukraine could turn into a “limited” nuclear conflict that could draw in other countries and potentially spark World War III.
Zaluzhnyi made the warning in an op-ed published by the Ukrainian state news agency Ukrininform that was co-authored by Ukrainian lawmaker Mykhailo Zabrodskyi. The pair warned that Moscow could use “tactical” nuclear weapons in Ukraine, although Russian leaders have insisted they would only use nuclear weapons if Russia’s existence was threatened.
The article reads: “It is also impossible to completely rule out the possibility of the direct involvement of the world’s leading countries in a ‘limited’ nuclear conflict, in which the prospect of World War Three is already directly visible.”
The article says that “any attempts at practical steps towards the use of tactical nuclear weapons must be stopped using the entire arsenal of means at the disposal of the countries of the world.”
Tactical nuclear warheads have smaller nuclear yields than strategic nuclear weapons. The US arsenal of tactical nuclear warheads ranges between 0.3 kilotons and 170 kilotons (the yield of the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons).
Experts on nuclear weapons argue that the idea of a “limited” nuclear war is misguided since once a nuclear exchange begins, it could easily spiral out of control. Daryll Kimbal, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, wrote on the issue in May 2022 for Arms Control Today.
Kimbal said: “Theories that nuclear war can be ‘limited’ are extremely dangerous and ignore the unimaginable human suffering nuclear detonations would produce. In practice, once nuclear weapons are used by nuclear-armed adversaries, there is no guarantee the conflict would not quickly escalate to a catastrophic exchange involving the thousands of long-range strategic nuclear weapons in the US and Russian arsenals.”