World War 3 as Putin to ‘launch nukes’ if China invades key area – US military expert

Russian navy's Belogrod nuclear submarine sets sail for the first time in 2021

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Russia’s 19-week war in Ukraine has brought back the spectre of nuclear Armageddon as Vladimir Putin has issued a series of threats to the West. The Russian President’s nuclear sabre-rattling began in late February, a few days into the invasion of Ukraine, as he ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert. The move dramatically escalated tensions between Russia and the West in a way not seen since the fraught relationship between the US and the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

Putin’s nuclear threats have continued in recent weeks as he claimed the Kremlin would deploy its newest nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, able to reach Britain in three minutes, by the end of 2022.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s threats, a US military expert has analysed how the nuclear arsenals of the world’s superpowers stack up and revealed the circumstances in which Putin would “launch the nukes”.

Dr John Callahan is a former diplomat and State Department spokesperson, who now works as a military adviser and a dean at New England College in the US.

Speaking to, he said: “I think Russia wouldn’t stand a chance against China without using nuclear weapons.

“Especially in the area where they would fight, which would be Siberia. Russia has very limited ability.

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“Let’s say the Chinese invaded Siberia right now. There’s a fair chance that the Russians would just turn the keys and launch the nukes.

“Because they would have to completely disengage from Ukraine, and somehow, on their creaky pathetic logistics system, get their forces halfway around the world to fight the Chinese.”

If the conflict did turn nuclear, Washington has the edge in terms of its spending on nukes, which totalled £36.9billion in 2021, outpacing China (£9.7 billion) and Russia (£7.1billion), according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Meanwhile, the US has 5,428 nuclear warheads, while China has 350 and Russia, 5,977, according to ICAN.

If China did fight Russia in Siberia, its forces would be able to cross into Russia’s vast northern region from several Chinese provinces.

Siberia is rich in minerals, including coal, petroleum, natural gas, diamonds, iron ore, and gold.

The region has been targeted by China in the past, as the nation once controlled huge swathes of land in what is today Russia’s Far East.

However, the Russian Empire seized control of the southeast corner of Siberia with the Amur Annexation, which began in 1858.

There was further upheaval in March 1969 as conflict broke out along the Sino-Soviet border, including on Siberia’s border with Kazakhstan and China’s western province of Xinjiang.

Dozens were killed and hundreds were wounded in the fighting, which risked spilling over into nuclear war.

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Moscow threatened a nuclear response against Beijing and multiple Chinese cities built bomb shelters, before both sides eventually settled their differences at the negotiating table.

Dr Callahan believes that Russia would be unlikely to prevail if it returned to conflict with Russia in Siberia.

The only global power that could stand up to Russia is the US, the expert explained as he looked at one of the world’s other potential military flashpoints – the South China Sea.

Beijing says it has sovereignty over much of the waters, but its maritime claims are disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Tensions in the region have also mounted as China has accused Australia and the US of provocative military actions, alleging that its sovereignty and security are threatened.

Were the tensions to spill over into all-out war, Dr Callahan claims that the US would defeat China, albeit with Beijing getting “some early licks in” due to its forces being more concentrated in the region than Washington’s.

He said: “The Americans absolutely are more capable and could defeat China if the full power of the US armed forces was actually in the Pacific and actually fighting them where they are.

“The problem is, they would get some early licks in because the US is spread all over the world.

“So, full capability, it would be a bloodbath, but we would win.

“But short term, the Chinese probably could achieve limited objectives simply because all of our forces aren’t there.”

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