Will US supply of ‘HIMARS’ to Ukraine force Russia to use ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons?


By Haider Abbas

The Russia-Ukraine war is soon to enter its 100th day with no sign of abatement, and on the contrary heading towards what might end into a catastrophe for the whole world. US and NATO, since February 24, when the war started, have been supplying weaponry to Ukraine, which is to add more frustration to Russia. The latest to add is the US President Joseph Biden announcement, to provide High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Ukraine, which is all to add more grist to the already volatile situation.

It has been learnt through BBC 1 on June 1, that ‘ US is to send longer-range rockets in latest aid package. White House official said the weapons would include medium-range HIMARS. The weapons, long requested by Ukraine, are to help it strike enemy forces more precisely from a longer distance. Until now, the US had refused the request out of fear the weapons could be used against targets in Russia. The systems can launch multiple precision-guided missiles at targets as far as 70km (45 miles) away – far further than the artillery that Ukraine currently has. They are also believed to be more accurate than their Russian equivalents.

This step, no doubt, by any standard is the biggest step to have been taken by US to arm Ukraine and also to irk Russia more, which has accused US of adding ‘fuel to fire’, as HIMARS is both short-medium and long-range missile system, as then Ukrainian army would then directly target Russian, which is also otherwise finding an adverse worldwide opinion ‘to have lost the war’ as has also been lately suggested by Shyam Saran, India’s, Ex. Foreign Secretary.  through an article in Business Standard 2 on May 31 . In the same article it has been debated ‘Russia has lost the Ukraine war as it would not have achieved any rational objective by the end of it’

The immediate consequence of adding to Ukraine muscle is the prospect of Ukrainian army taking significant steps to stop the Russian army from any further advancement in its Donbas region, which is right now under Russian control,  as this technique is what would be the guerilla-war strategy, for the mobility of these firing artillery missile system vehicles, will make it very difficult for the Russian army,  which will be soon under the direct assault from the Ukrainian side.   Moreover, US is also to make available the long range missile system too, and that signal that Ukraine will try to fire them inside Russian territory.

The scenario for it is already under its way, as firstly Joseph Biden had  declared that US was not to supply long-range missile system to Ukraine, informed Reuters 3 on May 30, but within hours it made a volte-face to proclaim that US would go ahead to supply medium -range missile system, as per SKY News 4  on June 1, and also issued a nuclear warning to Russia. The report stated,  ‘Washington attempts to tread a narrow line by sending Ukraine weapons while not inflaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and triggering a broader conflict that could spill over into other parts of Europe. Joe Biden has announced the US will send medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine to aid its forces as they struggle to stall Russian progress, in as apparent change of mind.’

The report elaborated further, ‘ the decision of Joseph Biden was forced to have been made, as Vladimir Putin’s forces making advances in the Donbas region, the decision HIMARS was taken on the condition Ukraine does not use it to launch strikes over the border. Officials say the systems are part of a new $700m (£556m) package of security assistance for Kyiv from the US that will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more.’ If this move of Biden is to be put to analysis, it comes that that US has tried to provoke Russia and if Ukraine goes ahead with any attack on Russian forces, a serious retaliation is what is to be returned.

The most obvious, reaction is what has started to come as New York Post  5 on June 1 has highlighted that ‘Russia is holding nuclear drills after Biden sends rockets to Ukraine as Russia’s nuclear forces are holding drills northeast of Moscow. Some 1,000 Russian soldiers are taking part in intense maneuvers using more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental missile launchers, Russia’s independent news agency Interfax reported, citing the country’s Ministry of Defense. The drills are taking place in the Ivanovo Oblast, about 160 miles northeast of Moscow. The drills, which are aimed at preparing the missile systems for combat, required the troops to march more than 60 miles, camouflage the equipment and post guards. The training exercise also involved Typhoon-M armored counter-sabotage vehicles, which are equipped with remotely operated weapon stations.’

Will Russia be forced to use a tactical nuclear weapon? The answer seem to be yes, as Russia which has been an erstwhile superpower is now being pushed-down, and in order to recuperate its image of being a ruthless -army, Russia may be led to take the extreme step, as the war right now, does not seem to end, but rather is getting aggravated with renewed EU and US supply of weapons and arms to Ukraine. Russia had attacked Ukraine for its growing proximity with European led NATO and Ukraine entry in to NATO was to invite NATO on the very door-step of Russia, and which Russia wanted to thwart at every cost.

Till date Ukraine was on the defensive but with this fresh supply Ukraine may go on the offensive too, and this, is what would spell the doom as Russia will go to any extent to salvage its pride, particularly, when its warship Moskva had been sunk, due to real-time satellite intelligence provided by US to Ukraine. How is Russia to answer back can be easily made-out by any geo-strategist, but the world tends to look the other way, and therefore, with it, tends to wait for yet any calamity to befall on humanity.

The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international issues.


1-      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-61655577

2-      https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/russia-has-lost-the-ukraine-war-china-made-wrong-bet-ex-fs-shyam-saran-122053001582_1.html

3-      https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/us-will-not-send-ukraine-rocket-systems-that-can-reach-russia-says-biden-2022-05-30/

4-      https://news.sky.com/story/biden-to-send-missile-system-to-ukraine-in-u-turn-and-issues-nuclear-warning-to-russia-12625079

5-      https://nypost.com/2022/06/01/russia-holding-nuclear-drills-after-biden-sends-rockets-to-ukraine/


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here