The King Jack Tsar (non-suited)

So, today, Putin said that he was not bluffing when he repeated the same thing he has been telling us ever since he started his failed invasion of Ukraine. He is going to use nuclear weapons if Russian territory is attacked, he said. Once again, this is another reason for NATO to provide Ukraine with all the heavy weapons it needs to swiftly defeat and destroy the Russian army in Ukraine and cut these threats short. It is beyond insane for top EU officials and national leaders to think that Europe can co-exist with a dictator who threatens to launch nukes while annexing and invading countries at will.

So, the joker Tsar said that he was not buffing. It’s not something you would say at the poker table, but it was appropriate enough for the master strategist of the Kremlin to say it on the international stage. It’s actually something one would say when desperate and while clutching at straws. “I’m not bluffing after my invasion of Ukraine has failed, lost the gas war with Europe and while my country is going broke.”

Those who play poker may remember Tony Gouga defeating the Russian poker champion, Ralph Perry at the International Poker Championship of 2006 after Ralph Perry bluffed Tony G and went all-in with a King Jack, non-suited. He lost the pot, of course, because King Jack rarely ever gets you anywhere. It was an incredibly stupid move which was followed by a torrent of abuse by Tony G as he rekindled age-old rivalry between their peoples.

Putin is bluffing with a King Jack in his hand: a defeated army, a crashing economy, a population which wants to flee the country, an increasingly hostile and domestic opposition, and international isolation. Allowing someone in such a weak position to bluff his way out is akin to naivety and failure to understand probability. I even doubt whether Putin actually has the capability to launch a nuclear weapon as opposition to his war in Ukraine increases in political circles.

Do you remember that at the start of the war an alleged intelligence agent leaked a lot of information on the Russian planning and build-up to the war? It transpired that the Russians admitted the the sources leaking information to Bellingcat were authentic. The FSB source had claimed that there isn’t a “red button”, meaning that Putin does not have the capability of launching nukes arbitrary and single-handedly, but there is a process which one must go through and execute. Through this process there are various officials and officers who would need to approve and execute the orders. Since then, Putin has grown much weaker domestically and this means that his political capability of launching nukes is also decreasing by time.


  1. One name is all you need to understand how the Soviet system for launching of nuclear missiles work. Stanislav Petrov. There is no reason why these procedures would be changed. The whole system almost certainly follows the US protocol of total annihilation. i.e. hundreds if not over a thousand of ICBMs would be launched to overwhelm any defensive system. There is no reason to even consider a middle ground given the system knows that even launching one ICBM against any NATO country would mean retaliation from all nuclear NATO members. Not just the United states. France and UK would certainly launch as a defensive retaliatory strike.

    Given that Putin certainly understands this I think he makes these threats not to bluff his enemies but to instil a sense of self-assurance in his own people. If they feel safe then they will support his crazy plans.

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