10 must-read Twitter threads on the war in Ukraine

By Dawn Stover | March 21, 2022

Ukraine Ministry of Defense @DefenceU/Twitter

Here at the Bulletin, we talk and correspond daily with experts on nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants, biosecurity, information warfare, and other risks that loom large in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Our breaking Ukraine coverage includes many of these experts’ analyses and opinions.

The rapidity with which events have unfolded in Ukraine, and the intense public interest in what is happening there, have prompted many experts to post their thoughts on social media—often as a Twitter thread responding to the latest news.

If you follow any of the Bulletin’s editors on Twitter, you know that we regularly retweet threads we find particularly interesting. We don’t have room to share them all here, but what follows is a sampling of some thoughtful threads on Ukraine.

Would Russia use nuclear weapons in Ukraine? When people kept asking him that question, nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein wrote a Twitter thread about it. He also explains what might happen if Russia did use a single, low-yield nuclear weapon—and why he’s not staying up all night worrying about this possibility.

Andrei Kozyrev, a former foreign minister of Russia, also offered up an opinion on whether Putin would use nuclear weapons. Kozyrev says there are three beliefs that led Putin to make a “horrific, but not irrational” decision to invade Ukraine, including confidence in a modernized Russian military.

Will China take Russia’s side? Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote a short thread about the Biden administration’s strategy of disclosing intelligence, which she says is making it harder for China to conceal cooperation with Russia.

Andrew Small, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, says China could act as a mediator—but explains why that probably would not be helpful.

The biolabs conspiracy theory. The Putin regime has thrown a spaghetti of false claims against the wall, but the allegation that the United States was manufacturing biological weapons in Ukraine is the one that seems to be sticking. Adam Rawnsley, a senior researcher at the Daily Beast, explains the history.

Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University and an expert on digital authoritarianism in the Middle East, analyzes the sources of the “biolabs” narrative. He periodically issues a “weather update” about which accounts are spreading deception (he prefers that term over “disinformation”) and what they are saying, and also tweets about the disinformation synergy between Russian and Chinese official accounts.

Nuclear infrastructure. Nickolas Roth, senior director on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Nuclear Materials Security Program team, writes about the dangers of all-out war in a country with nuclear power plants—and how to reduce the risks in Ukraine.

Denial of agency. Mariana Budjeryn, a research associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, writes about how Ukraine’s response to Russia’s attack demonstrates agency, even against a county with nuclear weapons. Nuclear deterrence has been exposed as a “worthless bluff,” she says.

Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, director of the International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, pushes back against the notion that countries in Russia’s “backyard” don’t have a right to choose which alliance they wish to join.

Thinking about nuclear war. Finally, an important reminder from Madison Arnold-Scerbo, campaign organizer with the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists: Take care of yourself.

Have you read a particularly great Twitter thread on the Ukraine crisis lately? Please let us know about it in the comments section below.

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