President Biden said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "doesn't have a way out" of the war in Ukraine and that he's "trying to figure out what we do about that," according to USA Today.
Speaking at a political fundraiser near Washington, D.C., Biden said Putin launched the invasion believing Russian troops would achieve a swift victory that would fracture NATO and the European Union, Reuters reported.
Instead, Russian forces were driven back from Ukraine's capital and suffered heavy losses. Even in eastern Ukraine, Russia's limited territorial gains have been dearly bought.
Last month, Bloomberg reported that Kremlin insiders had begun surreptitiously expressing concerns about the possibility of Putin ordering a nuclear strike against Ukraine to achieve his war goals.
Russia has a large stockpile of relatively small-yield tactical nuclear weapons and a military doctrine that justifies using them if its conventional forces come up short. Writing for Global Security Review, Joshua Ball explained that "if Russia were subjected to a major non-nuclear assault that exceeded its capacity for conventional defense, it would 'de-escalate' the conflict by launching a limited — or tactical — nuclear strike."
It might go something like this, per Ball: after a few more months of quagmire, Putin orders a tactical nuclear barrage to blast holes in Ukraine's battlelines. At the same time, he sends a message to NATO: "Look, neither of us wants a strategic nuclear exchange. Withdraw your support for Ukraine, and this can all be over. Your move, Biden."