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    Putin in the face of defeat threatens nuclear weapons. Poland wants to have it on its territory

    If we had nuclear weapons on our lands, Russia would not dare to attack us. That’s why President Duda’s words have caused real hysteria in Moscow. Entering the program, from the side of our tactical-operational readiness, is already implemented. What remains to be done is the hardest part – overcoming political resistance.

    The strike on the Kerch Bridge on the morning of October 8 caused a shock in the Kremlin. This crossing linking Crimea to Russia is of great strategic importance to Moscow. Just hours earlier, on Friday, October 7, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said Putin’s rule over Russia was by God’s mandate. He said this on the occasion of the modern Führer’s 70th birthday. He praised him for “transforming Russia’s image, strengthening its sovereignty and defence capabilities, protecting national interests.”

     

    As the Kremlin moves faster and faster toward catastrophe, and Putin threatens nuclear strikes, President Andrzej Duda, in an interview with Gazeta Polska editor-in-chief Tomasz Sakiewicz, puts the issue of Poland’s participation in the “Nuclear Sharing” program, that is, the deployment of nuclear weapons in our country. The conversation, which appeared on October 6, triggered a veritable avalanche of comments around the world. It also triggered a public response from the US State Department. Admittedly, it says that for the time being the United States has no plans to deploy weapons on NATO’s eastern flank, but that it is “watching the changing situation and will respond according to the situation.” This means, in the language of diplomacy, opening the door on this strategic issue for Poland. This will certainly be one of the key points put forward by the Polish community in America in the upcoming elections in this country.

     

    This great geopolitical transformation, an important element of which is the leap in Poland’s position in Europe, is accompanied by a great counteroffensive by the Ukrainian army in the north, which is moving forward. It is already liberating areas of Lugansk Oblast, and in the south, in the Kherson cauldron, the fate of 20,000 Russian soldiers seems a foregone conclusion. Today, it is clear that Putin’s last hope that the war would take a miraculous twist – the Great Mobilization – has ended in a Kremlin disgrace that is shocking in its scale. The U.S. magazine “Time” made the text, showing Ukraine’s military successes, the most important article of its latest October issue. On the cover, against the backdrop of the Ukrainian flag, is a portrait of Valerii Zaluzhnyi entitled “The General”. Simon Shuster and Vera Bergengruen write about “the Ukrainian Counterstrike That Turned the Tide of the War.” They believe that Zaluzhny, “hardened by years of battling Russia on the eastern front, was among a new generation of Ukrainian leaders who learned to be flexible and delegate decisions to commanders on the ground. ” According to U.S. journalists, “the sudden victories came at a critical point in what had become a grinding war of attrition. As the economic pressures built across Europe and around the world, sceptics were beginning to doubt whether Ukraine could endure a protracted fight.” As they point out, the U.S. and Ukrainian assessments are converging: ” the war will be longer and bloodier than most imagine. Putin has shown he’s willing to sacrifice his troops and commit atrocities to exhaust his adversary.”

     

    The turning point of the war

     

    The Ukrainian offensive is a turning point. Dan Rice, a West Point graduate who has been Zaluzhny’s special advisor since the beginning of the aggression, says that we’ll look at the recent Ukrainian offensive “like the Battle of Midway,” so the pivotal 1942 clash that turned the tide of America’s war with Japan. Two years before the war broke out, an event had occurred that had seemed to doom Zaluzhny’s career. In 2020, he was in charge of a major exercise that also included the testing of the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile (this weapon would soon become a terror for Russian tankers). Volodymyr Zelensky, who had already been president for a year, observed the manoeuvres. Zaluzhny suffered a spectacular defeat. The demonstration failed. He has not lost his head for it yet. A year later, in July 2021, when the Russians moved thousands of tanks under the border and the Americans warned that Ukraine could soon face a major attack, he received a phone call from the president at his wife’s party with an offer to take command of the entire army. He recalls that at the time he felt as if he had been punched “not just below the belt but straight into a knockout.” He understood the enormity of the challenge. In his office, he had almost all the works of Gen. Gerasimov, chief of staff of the Russian army. By his admission, he had read everything written by his opponent, who was 17 years older. He believed that war would soon break out. Every day counted. Within weeks of taking office, he began making key changes. In early February, he launched a major military exercise involving thousands of troops. It was a simulation of a Russian attack. A chance to develop a defensive strategy that would save them from disaster. He was disappointed with the results: “I spent an hour yelling,” as he recalls those events. ” I explained to them that if they can’t pull this off, the consequences will not only cost us our lives but also our country.” – he explains. They succeeded in carrying out a gigantic cover-up operation. At the last minute before the outbreak of war, the army moved and camouflaged a huge amount of military equipment – tanks, aircraft, and anti-aircraft batteries. Everything depended on this operation. As he recalls today: “I was afraid that we would lose the element of surprise.”

     

    “We needed the adversary to think that we are all deployed in our usual bases, smoking grass, watching TV, and posting on Facebook.” This spectacular trap set for Gerasimov succeeded. It kept Russia from gaining air superiority throughout the war. Mark Milley, U.S. Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was shocked to find that the Ukrainians withstood the momentum of the strike and held on.

     

    Milley asked him if he planned to withdraw. Zaluzhny allegedly told him, “For me, the war started in 2014. (…) I didn’t run away then, and I’m not going to run now.” Both were shocked from the start by the scale of the mistakes made by the Russian military. ” They just herded their soldiers into the slaughter,” claims Zaluzhny. “They chose the scenario that suited me best.” It was Ukraine’s victory in the first phase of the war that determined everything – large shipments of weapons began to flow to Kyiv. But it wasn’t until the great Kharkiv counteroffensive that many world capitals realized that the army commanded by Gen. Zaluzhny could win the war.

     

    The rate at which Russia’s international position is being degraded, as well as the increasingly deepening internal tensions, means that the Kremlin’s power is also weakening. Therefore, Putin is increasingly openly reaching for the ‘nuclear bogeyman’ to save his face. That’s how Russia’s “information” sent to the West about the departure of the K-329 Belgorod submarine, adapted to carry the Poseidon submarine drone, among other things, into Arctic Ocean waters was handled. NATO and the US are monitoring any activity of the Russian Federation’s nuclear arsenal. The K-329 Belgorod, which took more than 30 years to build, finally entered service on July 8, 2022. It was a twin of the K-141 Kursk, which sank on August 12, 2000, as a result of an explosion caused by tests on a weapon that was a preliminary version of the Poseidon drone. At that time, it was decided to complete the construction of the K-329. But there was a lack of money and political will to do so. It was not until Shoygu accelerated work on this design, an integral part of which was to be a torpedo equipped with a nuclear engine. Putin already revealed its existence in March 2018. The Poseidon, which develops speed allegedly twice as fast as the fastest nuclear ships, can stay underwater for more than 120 days and is a vessel difficult to detect. In one combat version, it can be armed with a 100-megaton warhead. The Defence 24 analyst Maximilian Dura notes that the news of the K-329 Belgorod submarine’s departure to sea “has triggered hysterical speculation around the world about whether the Russians want to use the vessel to fire the nuclear torpedo Poseidon toward the United States.” The truth, however, is probably that neither this large torpedo is yet ready, nor is the “Belgorod” yet capable of successfully carrying out such an attack. In addition, the question remains as to why the Russians would do such a thing when they have far more effective and proven means to provoke a nuclear world war.” But the situation shows how Putin is escalating tensions in the world over the possibility of a nuclear strike by Russia.

     

    Poland in NATO’s nuclear program

     

    This is one of the main reasons why President Duda’s interview was so widely reported around the world. The president stressed that Poland needs a response to the risk of nuclear war. He stated Poland’s readiness to participate in “Nuclear Sharing.”

     

    A few days earlier, Vladimir Putin, faced with the defeat of the Russian army in Ukraine, raised the spectre of using nuclear weapons to maintain his territorial gains, which Ukraine’s powerful counter-offensives have begun to destroy. He said he would use “all available means” to defend Russian territory – which, according to him, also includes the four Ukrainian regions he has illegally annexed. In his speech, he said that the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Japan in 1945 “set a precedent.” In response to this Kremlin attempt to paralyze the world with the fear of a nuclear apocalypse, President Duda pointed out in his interview that such a stance indicates the thinking in Moscow that “if Russia is not to be great, the world might not exist.” In the face of such a threat, Poland should have a nuclear umbrella. As he noted: “First of all, the problem is that we do not have nuclear weapons. There is no indication that we, as Poland, will have them in our possession soon. There is always the potential possibility of participating in NATO’s Nuclear Sharing Arrangements. We have talked to the American leadership about whether the United States is considering such a possibility. The matter is open.” This NATO program, the president indicated, makes it possible to share US nuclear warheads with Alliance countries that do not have them. Britain’s The Guardian, in a commentary, noted that this statement by Duda “appears to be the latest example of nuclear signalling as the US and its allies seek to deter Putin from the first nuclear use in battle since 1945 while preparing potential responses if deterrence fails that would have a maximum punitive impact while containing the risk of escalation to all-out nuclear war.” Shortly after that interview, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a strong statement that Putin’s latest threats could escalate into a nuclear conflict: “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Such an open and unequivocal warning has been exceptionally rare from American leaders. In late September, Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to the US president, said that any use of nuclear weapons would result in “catastrophic consequences” for Russia. He added that the US, through private channels of communication with Moscow, had conveyed to Putin how America and NATO would respond.

     

    Poland – a frontline state

     

    Poland is a frontline state, the strongest on NATO’s eastern flank. The events that will determine the future of Europe are taking place here. We are an area of a potential clash between the Alliance and Russia. And the hybrid war on our border is part of the already ongoing Cold War between the Russian Federation and NATO. Russian expansionism shows that Poland’s strategic interest should be to have access to American nuclear weapons. In 2021, the topic of Poland’s participation in the “Nuclear Sharing” program has come up twice, at the initiative of the US. This would mean Poland’s complicity in the use of American nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and the transfer of part of their arsenal to our country. This time it was part of Washington’s pressure on Berlin. After all, anti-nuclear hysteria had been growing in Germany for years. There were fears that the new Scholz government would make decisions that would hit the NATO nuclear deterrence strategy. The hard calculations of Chancellor Merkel’s successor then prevailed. German supporters of the “Nuclear Sharing” program have long argued that the fact of continued participation gives Berlin a stronger position in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) and allows it to effectively block ideas of expanding the program to other countries. Decisions are made on a conciliatory basis. The NPG, established in 1966, is the Alliance’s highest body on nuclear matters and brings together the governments that make up the Alliance. Since 1979, the Group, which is headed by NATO’s secretary-general, has included all Alliance defence ministers. Berlin can also torpedo the deployment of more nuclear weapons in Europe. The “Nuclear Sharing” project itself is currently based on an arsenal of 200 B 61 bombs stored at bases in Germany, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. They are owned by the U.S., but in the event of an outbreak of conflict, the country on whose territory they are stored gains the ability to use them under a complicated procedure. This makes this arsenal a more reliable tool of deterrence because the system is managed by a group of countries, not just the United States. Due to the ongoing modernization of this nuclear arsenal to the B-61 Model 12 format, which will reduce the strength of the nuclear payloads, but at the same time increase the accuracy of the strikes to 30 meters, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and the US have decided to purchase F-35A aircraft to carry these weapons. Only Germany chose Hornets, as a cheaper solution. As part of the “Nuclear Sharing” program, pilots of countries where B-61s are stored receive systematic training in acquiring the ability to carry nuclear payloads (the lowest predictable drop ceiling is 15 m). The B-61 Model 12 is equipped with a low-yield warhead to destroy military targets, minimizing collateral damage, and comes in four charge strength options – from 0.3 to a maximum of 50 kilotons. It is therefore a short-range weapon, not exceeding 500 kilometres, designed for direct combat operations. This tactical nuclear weapon owes its design and key engineering components to the work of the US government’s Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories.

     

    However, an essential element of nuclear deterrence is strategic weapons. According to the Arms Control Association, Russia currently has the world’s largest arsenal of them with some 6257 nuclear warheads, compared to the 5550 warheads the United States has. Submarines, bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles are equipped with it. Nina Tannenwald of Brown University, author of a high-profile book on nuclear deterrence in the U.S., notes, “Strategic nuclear weapons are conquerors of great cities (…), they are incredibly destructive weapons. If we went into a nuclear war with strategic weapons, it would essentially be the end of civilization in both countries.”

     

    Putin’s tactical nuclear toys

     

    It would be suicide for Russia. And Putin will not choose to take such a step. There is growing concern about the Tactical Nuclear Weapon (TNW) Putin possesses. The Kremlin does not state how many TNWs it has at its disposal, but experts estimate that it could number between 1,000 and 4,000 units. The power of these payloads ranges from 10 kilotons to 1 Megaton (“Little Boy” dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, had a blast power of 15 kilotons). According to data presented in 2011 by James Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy on President Obama’s team, Russia had between 2,000 and 4,000 tactical warheads at the time, 174 of which are on the ground troops’ equipment, and they are the ones who are mainly carrying out the aggression against Ukraine. Most, 150 of the payloads, use SS-21 Tokka missile sets as the carrier, while the remaining 24 are carried by SS-26 Iskander. Two Tochka U missiles, with a range of up to 120 km, with a conventional 9N123K cluster warhead, hit the Kramatorsk train station, killing 52 civilians, including women and 4 children. More than 100 people were seriously injured. Had the warhead contained a tactical nuclear payload, almost the entire city of 200,000 would have been destroyed. The 9K720 Iskander – M has a range of up to 500 km, but the system can be used by Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of more than 2,000 km. Russia has so far used more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukraine. However, the largest number of TNWs, more than 730, are at the disposal of the air force, including mainly the Su-24 M bombers, which carry 260 tactical nuclear payloads, and the Tu-22M3, which has 140 AS-4 bombs (this is a long-range anti-ship missile of Soviet design, the work of the Raduga Design Bureau from Dubna near Moscow, used to destroy aircraft carriers), and the Raduga Ch-15, a missile with a range of up to 150 km. Also, the Su-34 is adapted to carry TNW bombs. The Navy has more than 700 tactical thermonuclear payloads, and the air, missile and coastal defence forces have 430 TNW warheads. Altogether, this is a huge arsenal that can be deployed by the Kremlin on the front lines to stop a victorious assault by the Ukrainian army. However, according to analysts, Putin’s degraded army is not prepared for operations in the contamination zone. And this means that such weapons would be equally lethal to Russian formations themselves. Poland, however, is drawing clear lessons from the Kremlin’s actions. If we had nuclear weapons on our soil, Russia would not dare to attack us. That is why President Duda’s words caused real hysteria in Moscow.

     

    Poland in the Nuclear Sharing Program

     

    Already, Poland, like all other NATO countries, participates in the work of the Nuclear Planning Group and has its share in working out the strategy for the use of nuclear forces. The Polish army also realistically participates in exercises using the nuclear arsenal. Our air force, along with machines from the Czech Republic, recently participated in training at Italian bases in Aviano and Ghedi, where 70 B-61 bombs are stored. So, at the tactical level, we participate in exercises under the “Nuclear Sharing” program. And after the acquisition of the F-35, we will have the equipment to carry upgraded B-61-12 bombs as well. So just getting into the program, from the side of our tactical and operational readiness, is already underway. What remains to be done is the hardest part – overcoming political resistance. We should consistently aspire to full participation in the program if only to guarantee ourselves the same conditions of nuclear umbrella protection that Germany or the Netherlands have. This should be a strategic goal of our efforts.

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