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How do the Russian criteria for use of nuclear weapons differ from the American ones?

This post was published in Vzglyad. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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MOSCOW, (BM) – In short, the American nuclear doctrine is the most aggressive in the world. It is the only one that provides for the possibility of a country’s first, preemptive nuclear strike, and with the slightest reason. Against this background, the Russian concept of using nuclear weapons [NW] looks extremely peaceful.

To begin with, the list of possessing nuclear weapons includes nine states – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Moreover, only the first five have it officially [accordingly, the conditions for the use of nuclear weapons are spelled out in their military doctrines].

The United States, the Russian Federation, and the People’s Republic of China have the most impressive “nuclear briefcase”, which is why more attention is paid to them. Given that the United States is antagonistic for both Russia and China, the use of nuclear weapons by Washington against them / us is considered the most likely.

The Pentagon published the new nuclear doctrine of the United States in a document called “Nuclear Posture Review” in early 2018. It says that the United States intends to continue the concept of modernizing its nuclear forces in connection with the “development of Russian nuclear potential.” Key places in this strategy are also occupied by the PRC, Iran [which does not have nuclear weapons] and the DPRK.

Russia is given special importance in this document – the conflict of economic interests with China was not so obvious two years ago. The then US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in his introduction to the program, stated that Russia “has definitely returned to the competition of great powers,” which clearly did not suit Washington.

The US leadership, primarily President Donald Trump, who initiated the new nuclear doctrine, was extremely unhappy with the appearance of new nuclear weapons from Russia and China. The White House viewed this as a challenge to traditional American military superiority in both the Western Pacific and Europe.

At the same time, Trump reserved the right to launch the first nuclear strike. Including because of the use by any country of non-nuclear weapons in a particular conflict even without the participation of the United States, as well as cyber attacks on its networks. That is, the United States can “shoot” a nuclear warhead as it sees fit. In words, of course, Trump added that the new strategy is aimed at developing capabilities that make the use of nuclear weapons less likely and the United States will provide effective nuclear deterrence.

The new version of the Russian military doctrine (which also spells out the conditions for the use of nuclear weapons) was signed by President Vladimir Putin not so long ago (June 2 this year). These are not the first amendments to such documents, but right now the Ministry of Defense has decided for the first time to explain in detail the policy in the field of nuclear deterrence.

If we recall the 2014 edition of the Russian military doctrine, it was supposed to use the term “preemptive strike”. At least, the Russian media spoke about this, citing sources both in the government and in the Ministry of Defense. However, this did not happen, and Russia reserved the right to use nuclear weapons only in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and / or its allies, as well as in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is set.

In the current Russian nuclear doctrine, there are not so many differences from the previous ones [2014 and 2010], but they have their own significant meaning. The main one was the postulate of not using weapons first, the reason for its use may be the receipt of “reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles attacking Russia and / or its allies.” It should be understood that the launch of a potential enemy’s missiles will be detected by means of early warning of a missile attack.

At the same time, it is stipulated that during a missile strike it will not be possible to accurately determine the type of warhead, so any “blank” flying towards Russia will be considered a nuclear weapon. And then “poplar fluff” will fly in response – complexes of intercontinental ballistic missiles “Topol-M”, “Yars”, “Sarmat“, “Bulava” underwater basing will go off.

“For the first time, our new military doctrine lists possible nuclear threats, including in outer space,” military expert Alexei Leonkov told the VZGLYAD newspaper. – Accordingly, response actions are indicated, those “red lines” that should not be crossed are named. And here, in my opinion, lies a warning not only to the United States, which consider us, and now China, as “enemy number one”, but also to a number of Eastern European countries, where the Americans are planning to deploy cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. This is such a new US standard with the distribution of roles, when Washington aims at China, and trusts Europe to fight Russia with its weapons. Who will the Russian missiles fly to in the event of recorded launches from the same territory of Poland, Romania, the Baltic countries? They will fly in them. But not only, because the means of attack will be clearly recorded exactly as American ones, respectively, and the retaliation will be mutual – it will not be possible to sit out overseas. “

China, which tested a nuclear bomb in 1964, like Russia, the United States and other countries of the “nuclear club”, has its own doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons. It is called the White Paper on Defense. The latest version appeared in 2019, and it has highlighted key emphases in identifying threats from other states and the possible reaction of China to them. Among potential opponents, Beijing puts the United States first, and then calls Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China, a threat to official security.

Despite the fact that the military doctrine of the PRC, updated after 2014, became more aggressive, including towards the United States, it states: weapons. The PRC stands for a complete ban of nuclear weapons and their complete destruction, while categorically refusing to participate in the new START-3 treaty proposed by the United States on the limitation of strategic offensive arms.

Great Britain adheres to the principle of minimum nuclear deterrence in its nuclear doctrine. In London, they even invented such a concept as a “substrategic strike”, which implies a limited and exclusively selective use of nuclear weapons. Just to scare. Britain’s nuclear armament is now represented by approximately 215 warheads designed to be deployed on four nuclear submarines.

France’s nuclear arsenal is somewhat larger – it is about 300 strategic warheads, which are also designed to be deployed on four nuclear submarines, as well as 60 aircraft-based ASMP tactical cruise missiles. However, it is the fourth largest nuclear weapon in the world. At the same time, France’s nuclear doctrine is focused on “nuclear deterrence” rather than real application. Similar concepts are broadcast by India and Pakistan, which have never used nuclear weapons over the years of conflict, but it remained a constraining factor in its further large-scale development.

Russian nuclear doctrine does not imply aggression and a desire to dominate, much less attack. It is, in the highest degree, an element of deterrence that now allows Russia to pursue its own independent policy around the world. And feel confident even when interacting with a country like the United States.

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