Expert: Russia moving toward 1st use of nukes

By Ned Seaton

Russia is moving toward the use of nuclear weapons in an increasingly unstable area of the world, according to an expert on Russia from the University of Kansas.

Jake Kipp, an adjunct professor at KU, said Thursday that Russian conventional forces are weak, while that nation’s leaders have adopted an aggressive posture toward its neighbors. War-planning exercises in Russia have increasingly involved the first use of nuclear weapons, he said.

That might run contrary to most Americans’ view that nuclear weapons were either a relic of the Cold War or were a concern only because of possible use by a rogue state or a terrorist cell. “This is an area that has not gone away,” Kipp said.

Aside from the weakness of its conventional forces, Russia operates in a “new stew of threats” from China to the Caucasus to Central Asia to the Ukraine, Kipp said. (The Caucasus are the region between Russia, Turkey and Iran, including Chechnya, Dagestan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.)

The Russians see the United States as stringing together a global network of missiles capable of being aimed at Eurasia. They’re responding to that, and “we could end up with a strategic arms race,” Kipp said. “All of that adds up to a very unstable situation at a time when the international situation is very unstable.” He cited Syria, the Arab Spring and troubles in the Ukraine among the things creating instability.

President Obama came into office talking about a “reset” in relations with Russia, but Kipp said now that “reset is dead.”

What needs to be done? “We need a reappraisal of our geostrategic relations with Eurasia,” Kipp said. In other words: Come up with ways for managing crises in places like the Caucasus without them exploding into major conflicts — even nuclear ones — involving the Russians. “These kinds of problems — they’re still there,” Kipp said.

What’s needed, he said, is a U.S. political figure who can nimbly manage the international system to create more stability. But, he mused: “How do you get a political system that delivers that?”

Kipp was in Manhattan to give a speech in what’s called the Political, Diplomatic and Military Lecture Series. That series is coordinated by K-State Political Science Prof. Dale Herspring.

Kipp taught Russian and military history at K-State from 1971 to 1985, serving a stint as head of the Faculty Senate.

He later served as a senior analyst at the Soviet Army Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, and was director of the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth from 2003 to 2006.

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