Nuclear Threshold Drastically Reduced

Senators propose change of doctrine so Russia could respond with nukes to any ‘strategic strike’

Published time: 21 Nov, 2018 17:54

An Iskander-M launcher on display. The system is capble of shooting short-range nuclear-tipped missiles. ©Sputnik / Ramil Sidrikov

Russia should be allowed to use its nuclear arsenal in response to a non-nuclear strike with a strategic weapon, Russian senators believe. Their recommendation is to amend Russia’s nuclear posture accordingly.

A suggestion to make the Russian nuclear doctrine more flexible was one of the recommendations backed by the upper chamber of the Russian parliament late on Wednesday.

The senators said the Russian National Security Council should prepare and propose an amendment on the nuclear doctrine, which would allow taking a decision to retaliate in case of enemy use of hypersonic and other strategic conventional weapons against Russia, reported RIA Novosti.

Yars ICBM launchers during a military parade. Sputnik / Ilya Pitalev

Russian nuclear doctrine was last reviewed in 2014, when the current escalation of tensions with the West was just unfolding.

It allows the armed forces to deploy nuclear weapons on two scenarios. One is in response to a strike with a nuclear weapon or another weapon of mass destruction against Russia or one of its allies. Another is when a nuclear strike is necessary to prevent a conventional attack threatening the existence of Russia as a sovereign state.

The US has since amended its nuclear posture, relaxing restrictions on when it could use nuclear weapons.

The latest review published in February is intentionally somewhat vague, but it called for developing new kinds of nuclear weapons and indicated that the US may nuke a country for as little as launching a cyberattack against America or one of its allies.

The US has also recently announced its intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a key Cold War era agreement with Russia which led to large-scale denuclearization of Europe. The treaty banned both the US and Russia from developing and deploying nuclear-capable land-based missiles with the range best suited for an exchange between Russia and European members of NATO.

Hundreds of such weapons deployed by each side prior to sealing the INF agreement were a major destabilizing factor. They required only minutes in flight to reach their targets, as opposed to dozens of minutes for intercontinental missiles. So if a launch were to be detected, it would leave almost no time to assess whether it was an actual attack requiring a response or a false alarm.

The recommendations from the Senate were the result of a round table discussion with officials from the Defense Ministry, the General Staff and the Security Council.

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