Vladimir Putin, who is doing a lot of the heavy-lifting in a ground war against ISIS in Syria, might be thinking of an explosive new strategy. Literally.
In an interview with Russia Today, Putin hinted that he hasn’t ruled out using some of Russia’s vast arsenal of nuclear weapons against ISIS.
He explained: “We must [look at] everything happening on the battlefield, how the weapons operate.”
“[Russian cruise missiles] have proved to be modern and highly effective, and now we know it for sure – precision weapons that can be equipped with both conventional and special warheads, which are nuclear.”
But Putin was quick to add this caveat:
“Naturally, this is not necessary when fighting terrorists and, I hope, will never be needed.”
Russia has been one of the staunchest opponents against ISIS—because Syria’s beleaguered dictator, Bashar al-Assad, is a key Russian ally in the region. If Assad’s government were to fall (whether to ISIS or another Syrian revolutionary group), Russia’s power and clout in the Middle East would disintegrate almost overnight.
But Putin walks a fine line between blowing up civilian Syrians—many of whom are hostile to ISIS—and blowing up ISIS command centers, which is made even harder with indiscriminate weapons like nuclear missiles.
If Putin were to nuke Syria, it would only be the third time in history that a nuclear weapon was used in wartime—the only other times were when the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to end World War II.
As Putin stated, it’d be unlikely—and generally unnecessary—to use such powerful weapons against ISIS. But the fact that it’s even being mentioned is it’s a clear sign of how the war against ISIS is changing in such a short period of time.