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A Conversation with Peter Huessy, Senior Warrior Maven Nuclear Weapons Analyst

Peter Huessy, Senior Warrior Maven Nuclear Weapons Analyst discusses nuclear weapons, deterrence, modernization and more as the war in Ukraine unfolds with Russia

(Partial transcript below. For full insights be sure to watch extended interview above) 

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization

Hello and welcome to warrior Maven, the Center for military modernization very significant conversation today in light of the nuclear threat posed by Putin and the Russian military. Sure enough, the forces were not only put on alert, but there have been even more recent threats, of course, along with the use of hypersonic weapons it for the first time ever, here to talk about this as a very gifted expert, Mr. Peter Huessy. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and also has his own consultancy GeoStrategic Analysis, Mr. Huessy, thank you so much for your expertise.

Peter Huessy, Senior Warrior Maven Nuclear Weapons Analyst

Thank you, Kris, for inviting me. It's an honor to talk with you today.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization

Well, you've been one of the forefront and think one of the leading thinkers of this kind of stuff for quite some time. And I'm interested in just the simple question of how realistic is it? Well, will Putin fire a tactical nuclear weapon? Right?

Peter Huessy, Senior Warrior Maven Nuclear Weapons Analyst

Well, let's start at the beginning. And that is 1997 1999 when Putin was secretary of the National Security Council in Russia, and unilaterally decided to change Russian that previous Soviet in currently Russian strategic nuclear doctrine. 

And what he invented was what General Hyten the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said was escalate to win meaning, even before it conventional aggression occurs by Russia, he would threaten the use of small limited number of nuclear weapons, primarily in the regional levels, small tactical nukes, he threatened them to such a point where said you would the adversary would stand down and not fight. 

And that is what Putin did. And when he became president of the country, he then put into place a modernization effort starting in around 2000, a modernization effort, which is now 90%, complete, and it's a they have 25, currently in progress, or built nuclear weapon systems, both conventional and excuse me, both strategic and regional. And the worry is that he would use a limited number of weapons, and threatened to use them to get us to stand down. That is what he has brought to the nuclear table, which is what is so worrisome.

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Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization

Roger, that certainly getting a whole lot of attention. There has been this question of would there be a Measure for Measure tactical, nuclear kind of attack of some kind, based on the premise that there might not be a catastrophic response, but the threat situation globally has been changing quickly. And you've been tracking this for quite some time? It was Admiral Richard, the commander of STRATCOM, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee, this is a three peer world. This is not just two major nuclear powers, exactly the three we have a different world today.

Peter Huessy, Senior Warrior Maven Nuclear Weapons Analyst

He is very right, I have to come and a man is very, very, right. Very, very courageous. 

He has basically said America has always had one peer competitor in terms of conventional forces in Soviet Union. And they were nuclear armed. But now we have to. We have two peer competitors, China and Russia, both nuclear armed, which is unprecedented, plus the fact that everywhere from cyber warfare, space warfare, conventional and nuclear, it's all one continuum, and you don't know what the bad guy is going to use at any particular time. 

Our response or capability is we have tactical nuclear weapons about less than 200 in Europe. There are board tactical airplanes. Not bombers, they're theater, fighter planes. And they would take a certain period of time to get to Russia, if we targeted something like that. 

Russia, on the other hand has 2000, not 200, but a minimum of 2000 such weapons, both air, sea and land. 

And they can come at us from Kaliningrad that the enclave played between Poland and Baltics, and they can get to Warsaw can get to Kev, in a matter of single digit minutes, is what I understand in terms of a low flying cruise missile, which could be nuclear armed or conventional armed. 

So we don't have the capability to respond. And let me make a very important point here. Couple arms control groups have come out and said, even if Putin uses nuclear weapons, we should not respond in kind. And we emphasize that Bruce Blair, the founder of Global Zero, who passed away a year or so ago, said In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, even if Russia uses nuclear weapons against the United States, we should not respond with nuclear weapons. 

What that does is takes your nuclear deterrent off the table. Right. And I doubt that's going to persuade Mr. Putin not to use nuclear weapons, as Victor Hansen points out by taking military capability off the table upfront, which our administration did, saying, we're not going to get involved militarily, we're not going to send conventional forces. And then he took weapons off the table and said, well, we'll go to sanctions. It gave the initiative to Mr. Putin to use military force as he's saw fit, which is really, really dangerous. 

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Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization