I wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Examiner that Russian President Vladimir Putin is desperate, that’s for sure. But his threat of using tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine is a classic Soviet-style attempt at blackmail that, hopefully, no Western leader will fall for. If anything, by suggesting the possibility of using nuclear weapons, Putin may have advanced the date of his removal from power. I believe it is now more likely than not that his circle will remove him.
Autocrats can indeed be very dangerous when they are cornered because of their own mistakes. They can become unstable. I believe in never saying “never” when speaking about what dictators may or may not do. I doubt, however, that Putin is seriously thinking about going nuclear because he knows that such a move would much more likely bring about his own and Russia’s downfall as a federation than even a protracted and unsuccessful war.
Contrary to what the right-leaning pundits may think, Putin will not use nuclear weapons against the U.S. or other NATO countries because it would be the end for him and for Russia. But in the improbable event that he manages to order the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine before being ousted, his end would come just as quickly, and the Russian Federation would not survive it.