The US-Russia Crisis Over Ukraine: All Options Should Not Be On the Table

Following the inconclusive round of high-stakes talks between senior U.S. and Russian officials on nuclear arms control, European security, and the crisis in Ukraine last week, a journalist asked National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Jan. 13, “Are all options on the table?”

Sullivan replied that if Russia further invaded Ukraine, options that would be employed include severe sanctions on Russia and military aid for Ukraine, as well as “changes in the forces and capabilities that the United States and NATO would deploy to eastern flank allies to reinforce and strengthen the robustness of allied defense on allied territory.”

But the mere fact that the “all options on the table” question is being raised should be cause for great concern.

In the nuclear age, “all options on the table” in a conflict involving nuclear powers could be understood to mean the potential use of nuclear weapons, even if that wasn’t the intention in this instance. U.S. and Russian leaders must consider the use of such weapons off the table — there are no winners in a nuclear war.

Read the full op-ed, published Jan. 18, 2022, in Just Security.