23 Jun 2023
Exiled Russian businessman and opposition activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky said that if Vladimir Putin resorted to nuclear weapons, his war effort in Ukraine could collapse "in several months."
The prospect of Russia turning to nuclear weapons to regain the initiative has hung over the conflict.
This week in responding to a question about whether he believed Belarus had been delivered Russian tactical nuclear weapons, U.S. President Joe Biden warned the prospect Putin would use such arms was "real."
However, Khodorkovsky, who headed the energy company Yukos before he was jailed for 10 years for what critics called politically motivated charges, believes that the Russian president had economic reasons not to use such weapons, aside from issues of self-preservation.
"Putin is nearing a limit which it is not beneficial to go beyond," Khodorkovsky said in a video uploaded to his Twitter account on Thursday.
"What does it mean to use nuclear weapons there, in Ukraine? He immediately loses the possibility of parallel imports," Khodorkovsky said, referring to products brought from another country without the permission of the intellectual property owner.
"Without parallel imports, his ability to make ammunition ends within a few months," he added.
Since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been hit by tough Western sanctions aimed at hampering his war effort.
However, as Newsweek has previously reported, Moscow is exploiting loopholes in export controls to purchase Western technology that helps Russia on the battlefield. More than 60 percent of the imported critical components in weapons that Russia uses are coming from U.S. companies.
Between March and December 2022, Russia imported $20.3 billion in components associated with military equipment according to the KSE Institute, a think tank at the Kyiv School of Economics. This was only 15 percent less than the year before Russia's invasion.
Khodorkovsky said that regarding nuclear weapons, Putin faces the question of whether "to press the suicide button," although the president "is not suicidal."
Over the course of the war, experts have suggested that Putin would not use nuclear weapons because they would not deliver any strategic advantage.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky raised the alert to another nuclear threat, saying on Thursday that Ukrainian intelligence had received information that Russia is considering "a terrorist attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
The site is Europe's largest nuclear plant and has been the scene of fighting for months, prompting concern from the international community.
"They have prepared everything for this," Zelensky said. "Radiation has no state borders."