Dmitri Medvedev, a former Russian prime minister and president who essentially played musical chairs with Vladimir Putin with both offices for years, has issued what many believe is a direct threat of nuclear escalation should “World War III” break out.
Currently serving as Security Council Deputy Chairman, Medvedev ripped Western officials who say their countries are arming Ukraine following Russia’s invasion nearly a year ago in order to prevent it from escalating.
“Firstly, defending Ukraine, which nobody needs in Europe, will not save the senile Old World from retribution if anything occurs. Secondly, once the Third World War breaks out, unfortunately it will not be on tanks or even on fighter jets. Then everything will definitely be turned to dust,” he wrote on his Telegram channel on Saturday, according to Russian news agency Tass.
The report added:
In this post, Medvedev commented, in particular, on Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto’s remarks that the Third World War would erupt if Russian tanks reached Kyiv and “the borders of Europe” and that the weapons sent to Ukraine were meant to stop the escalation. Medvedev equated his remarks to the calls from the United Kingdom to provide Kyiv with all the weapons NATO has.
Mostly the U.S., but also some NATO countries, have been flooding Ukraine with everything from small arms ammunition and communications equipment to artillery and sophisticated HIMARS rocket launchers that have destroyed tons of Russian military equipment and inflicted tens of thousands of casualties.
And now, the U.S. and NATO have decided to provide Kyiv with sophisticated main battle tanks like the German-made Leopard 2 and the U.S.-made M1 Abrams, though the latter machines won’t be built for about a year. The goal is to provide the Ukrainians with enough firepower and equipment to launch a counteroffensive in weeks not to invade Russia but to regain lost territory, including the Crimean peninsula that Putin ‘annexed’ in 2014.
That said, the Russians are preparing for their own offensives.
“The Russian army apparently is repositioning heavy forces in advance of a widely-anticipated winter offensive in Luhansk Oblast in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region,” Forbes reported this week. “The forces include elements of the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, which has spent months in Belarus, recovering from its near-destruction by Ukrainian brigades during two previous, large-scale operations.”
“Ukrainian intelligence relatedly noted that elements of the 2nd Motor Rifle Division of the 1st Guards Tank Army of the Western Military District have withdrawn from Belarus and partially deployed to Luhansk Oblast,” the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War noted last week in a report.
In a separate report, Forbes noted that Russia is having difficulty rearming its tank formations and is currently retrofitting older T-72 tanks for battle in Ukraine, but Moscow is running out of optics for the refitted tanks. That would make them far less effective:
The result is at least one new T-72 model: the T-72B3 Obr. 2022. It’s a 1980s-vintage T-72B with a suite of enhancements including a Sosna-U day-night digital gunner’s sight, new reactive armor, a rear-looking video camera and a fresh barrel for its 125-millimeter main gun.
Don’t get too excited. The additions don’t significantly improve the T-72’s performance—and don’t do anything to remedy the type’s fundamental problem: its dangerous ammunition stowage.
Equally troubling for Russian tankers, a shortage of components apparently has compelled tank-maker Uralvagonzavod also to produce a down-rated “emergency” T-72B1 Obr. 2022 that lacks the Sosna-U sight.
Instead, the down-rated T-72 has an outdated 1PN96MT-02 analog thermal sight that’s comparable to the sights NATO armies installed on their own tanks back in the 1970s. This emergency T-72B1 Obr. 2022 is … not a great tank.
The war in Ukraine doesn’t look like it’s going to be ending anytime soon. That significantly increases the risk of World War III and Medvedev’s ominous statement coming true.