The situation could lead to a major escalation, possibly having nuclear impacts.
Lucas Leiroz, journalist, researcher at the Center for Geostrategic Studies, geopolitical consultant.
On March 21, UK Minister of State for Defense Annabel Goldie stated that London would supply Ukraine with weapons containing depleted uranium (DU). This type of technology, as well known, is extremely dangerous and has serious chemical, radioactive effects among its consequences. For Moscow, this is yet another provocation that violates clear red lines in the conflict.
Sending these weapons to Ukraine significantly changes the way the conflict has been conducted so far, as the Westwould openly supply weapons with radioactive power to Ukrainian forces. DU is the by-product of enriching or reprocessing uranium for nuclear energy. In the defense sector, this component has been attached to ammunition and artillery weapons by British forces for decades. The objective is to take advantage of its high density to make it possible to penetrate tanks and armored vehicles during attacks.
Although significantly less toxic than enriched uranium, DU is actually radioactive and its effects on human health have been denounced for a long time, mainly with regard to the long-term consequences of inhaling the product. Deformities of fetuses, tumors and other serious problems have affected the civilian population of regions where these weapons were used by the British military during their participation in NATO operations. Obviously, it is of central importance for the Russian government to prevent this scenario from occurring in Ukraine and in the regions that have recently joined the Federation.
In this sense, commenting on the subject, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Maria Zakharova, emphasized the irresponsibility of the West in acting in this way and warned about the dangers of using these weapons – both for those who are attacked by them and for the soldiers who operate them. She also said that the supply of DU ammunition qualitatively changes the dimension of the conflict, generating new escalations.
“This is a matter of the absolute recklessness, irresponsibility, and impunity of the Anglo-Saxons, the Anglo-Saxon duo, primarily London and Washington, in international affairs. This is another British provocation, which is aimed at bringing the situation around Ukraine to a new round of aggression, conflict and confrontation, and giving a qualitatively different dimension to it (….) All conversations that they see the well-being of Ukraine in the future end with their statements about their intention to supply depleted uranium shells (…) I am not sure that the British lady [Goldie] who made the statement is fully aware of the consequences of the use of these weapons. Not only will those against whom they are used and those who are in the affected area at this historical moment suffer, but also future generations who live on these lands… This component [depleted uranium] also strikes those who use these weapons”, she said.
In the same vein, Russian President Vladimir Putin himself stated: “I would like to note in this regard that if all this happens, then Russia will be forced to react accordingly – I mean that the Collective West is already starting to use weapons with a nuclear component”.Previously, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu also warned that “another step [towards nuclear collision] has been taken, and there are fewer and fewer left”.
However, the UK ignored the warnings and reiterated its plans to send such weapons. British officials claim that DU munitions are not nuclear arms, which would “invalidate” the Russian narrative of nuclear escalation. In fact, in addition to being irresponsible and bellicose, the British stance also sounds inconsistent with reality, since the legal status of such weapons is not completely defined.
Because they are stronger than conventional chemical weapons and less powerful than nuclear ones, DU ammunitions do not have a very clear definition under international law. Some experts believe that they should be considered nuclear weapons according to the legal principle of analogy, since they contain radioactive material. Others believe that in fact they cannot be seen as nuclear, but that they should be banned based on the principle of proportionality, since their side effects are much more significant than their military advantage.
This uncertainty creates a margin for the offended side to interpret the situation freely. In other words, Moscow could understand the use of the DU as an actual nuclear aggression, which, according to its military doctrine, would allow it to respond using its atomic arsenal. For the West, the Russian authorities are bluffing when they warn about the escalation, but the message has been clear, and the Russian president has said that the country has the right to react “accordingly” to any aggression suffered.
Avoiding nuclear war should be a number one priority for all world leaders, but unfortunately the West has embraced the total war policy against Russia and launched a wave of escalation that could lead the world towards catastrophe. The more red lines are violated, the harder it is to stop the worst case scenario from happening.
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