Hamburg - Mittelweg 144
+49 40 593 61 953

Kremlin uses nuclear threats and diplomatic manipulation to control West – ISW

Der politische Arm der aktiven Zivilgesellschaft in Europa

Kremlin uses nuclear threats and diplomatic manipulation to control West – ISW

The Kremlin is once again intensifying its campaign of reflexive control aimed at influencing Western decision-making through nuclear threats and diplomatic manipulation. 

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: Several military analysts have stated that reflexive control is a key element of Russia’s hybrid warfare approach. This tactic shapes the enemy through targeted rhetoric and information operations so that the enemy voluntarily takes actions that benefit Russia. 

Russian officials have consistently timed nuclear readiness exercises and vague threats of nuclear retaliation to coincide with important Western decisions on the war in Ukraine in order to force Western politicians to restrain themselves and reduce their support for Ukraine. 

The current apparent renewing of nuclear rhetoric, this time as planned tactical exercises involving nuclear weapons, coincides with the imminent arrival of Western weapons in Ukraine. 

Russian officials are likely using the nuclear weapons information operation to dissuade Ukraine’s Western partners from providing additional military support and to scare Western politicians into preventing Ukrainian forces from using Western-supplied systems to attack legitimate military targets in Russia. 

Russian forces have been conducting routine nuclear exercises as part of this broader nuclear rhetoric information operation, but ISW continues to assess that Russia is extremely unlikely to use tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine or elsewhere.

Russia has frequently used nuclear weapons rhetoric during its full-scale invasion of Ukraine to pressure the West to withdraw military support for Ukraine. 

For reference: 

The Soviet mathematician Vladimir Lefebvre defined reflexive control as „the process of transferring the reasons for a decision“ to the enemy through „provocations, intrigues, disguises, creation of false items and lies of any kind.“ 


The Russian Ministry of Defence reported on 6 May that Russian leader Vladimir Putin had instructed the Russian General Staff to prepare for non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons exercises to „practise the preparation and use“ of tactical nuclear weapons. 
The Russian Ministry of Defence stated that these exercises would involve missile units from the Southern Military District of Russia, as well as Russian aircraft and naval forces. 
The Russian Ministry of Defence and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in particular, stated that Russia would conduct nuclear exercises in response to „provocative statements and threats“ made by Western officials against Russia. 
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the United States of deploying ground-launched intermediate- and short-range missiles „in various regions around the world“, which, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, allows Russia to respond in the same way. 
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also said it would consider the arrival of F-16s in Ukraine as a provocation, as Russia would consider F-16s to be nuclear weapons carriers – a standard threat that Russian officials have made since Western states first committed to sending F-16s to Ukraine in the summer of 2023. 
Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, accused US, French and UK officials of considering sending their troops to Ukraine and said this justified Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons exercises. Medvedev also explicitly threatened a „world catastrophe“ as a result of Western intervention in Ukraine and warned of Russian strikes on Washington, Paris and London. Russian officials, including Medvedev, are critical elements in Russia’s efforts to use nuclear rhetoric as a form of reflexive control.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also summoned the UK and French ambassadors to Russia as part of a broader campaign of reflexive control aimed at dissuading Western governments from supporting Ukraine. 

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 6 May:  

The Kremlin appears to be re-intensifying a reflexive control campaign targeting Western decision-making using nuclear threats and diplomatic manipulation.
Russian elites and Kremlin officials are reportedly vying for influential positions in the Russian government ahead of the Russian presidential inauguration on 7 May to prematurely secure powerful roles in the event that Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves power around the end of his new term.
A Russian insider source, who has routinely been accurate about past Russian military command changes, claimed that the Russian military command appointed the commanders and chiefs of staff of the newly formed Leningrad and Moscow military districts (LMD and MMD).
The Kremlin continues tightening the restrictions on individuals it designates as „foreign agents,“ restricting their ability to serve in government roles, likely in a disguised purge of officials who do not adequately align with the Kremlin.
Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence conducted a successful maritime drone strike against a Russian patrol boat in occupied Crimea on 6 May, and Ukrainian forces are reportedly adapting their maritime drones to combat Russian defensive measures.
Russia may be switching sides in the Sudanese civil war to support the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in pursuit of a Red Sea naval base for Russia, which would align Iranian and Russian Sudanese policy and create opportunities for increased Iranian-Russian cooperation in Sudan and the broader Red Sea area.
Russia has pursued a Red Sea port since 2008 to protect its economic interests in the area and improve its military posture by increasing its ability to challenge the West in the broader region, including in the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.
Russia backing the SAF would greatly benefit Iran by aligning Iranian and Russian policy and strategy in the region, which would advance Iran’s own aims of securing a Red Sea base in Sudan.
The Kremlin is additionally pursuing secondary objectives, including sidelining Ukrainian and US influence in Sudan, through its outreach to the SAF.
Russian forces recently made confirmed advances northwest of Svatove, near Avdiivka, in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast.
Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia Oblast Head Ivan Fedorov stated that Russian authorities have created the infrastructure necessary to conscript Ukrainians in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast and plan to conscript more than 150,000 Ukrainians into the Russian army in an unspecified time period.

Support UP or become our patron!