The sum of their fears.
The nuclear decision approaches.
Process note: this was originally to be the Monday-morning Armas, but events are moving so quickly — see why at the close here — that I am sending now. Enjoy your Monday Armas on this Sunday evening.
The nuclear-weapons conversation continues to unfold in Washington, D.C., among a class of people who have mostly spent the past generation avoiding genuinely strategic questions — laudable exceptions exist — and there is much confusion and perplexity. This is a good Twitter thread on the mindset at work, and there are two pulls from it worth highlighting:
All this is quite right, as Armas noted some days back. Judah is right, and so is Medvedev. As the conversation progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the putative deterrence barriers to Russian nuclear-weapons use are well within what Russia — or at least its regime — is plausibly willing to endure. As if to emphasize the point, we have this anonymized White House thinker’s candid observation with the New York Times from Saturday:
[I]n background conversations, a range of officials suggested that if Russia detonated a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukrainian soil, the options included unplugging Russia from the world economy or some kind of military response — though one that would most likely be delivered by the Ukrainians with Western-provided, conventional weapons.
This is considerably less aggressive than what this same milieu shared with the Financial Times not even one week back, when it was asserting that Russian nuclear weapons would trigger “conventional military responses from western states.” Now the signal, instead of strengthening, has weakened. Let’s review the trajectory of deterrence in thumbnail.
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