The amount of chatter about the possibility of a war between the U.S./NATO and Russia increased over this summer. For one thing, there was a cover piece in The National Interest on the topic; I bought the issue in hard copy, rather predictably I barely glanced at it, and now (even more predictably) I am not sure where the copy of the issue is (yes, I could find it, assuming I didn't throw it out, but it's apparently not in one of the piles on the floor any more).
Just now I glanced at a piece in Vox (h/t) from this past June by Max Fisher summarizing the alarm bells that various experts have been ringing. The most telling point, based on my skim, appears to be that Putin has lowered the threshold for nuclear use in Russia's official nuclear doctrine. The official position now is that Russia will use nuclear weapons if a conventional conflict poses an "existential" threat to it; that's what I took from the Vox piece. The implication is that certain influential Russian strategists, and maybe Putin himself, now think a "limited" nuclear war is possible and "winnable." As far as I'm aware, no serious strategist in the West has entertained this ludicrous notion since the mid-1950s.
One can probably see (or at least this is my view) that maintenance of tactical or 'battlefield' nuclear weapons makes no sense for countries that don't see a limited nuclear war as a realistic possibility, i.e., that think any nuclear exchange will likely escalate. That's one of the reasons why it's pointless and a waste of money for the U.S. to still have 200 'tactical' nuclear weapons (gravity bombs) deployed in Europe. These weapons have no purpose, nor much of a deterrent effect, unless one thinks that a limited nuclear exchange will stay limited, which Western strategists, as far as I'm aware, don't.
However, recent official statements emanating from Russia suggest that Putin might have adopted the belief that a limited nuclear exchange could stay limited, or even that use of a 'tactical' nuclear weapon would not draw a nuclear response (or a conventional response of high intensity). Or maybe Putin just wants people to think he believes this. Yeah, that Putin. Crazy like a fox.