Posted on Aug 09, 2020
Russia will perceive any ballistic missile launched at its territory as a nuclear attack that warrants a nuclear retaliation, the military warned in an article published in the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star).
The warning clearly directed at the United States, which has been working to develop longer-range non-nuclear weapons.
This follows the publication in June of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy that envisages the use of nuclear weapons in response to a conventional strike that “threatens the very existence of the state”.
In the Krasnaya Zvezda article, senior officers of the Russian military’s General Staff, Major General Andrei Sterlin and Colonel Alexander Khryapin, noted that there will be no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and so the military will see it as a nuclear attack.
“Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead,” the article said. “The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation.”
The argument reflects Russia’s longtime concerns about the development of weapons that could give Washington the capability to knock out key military assets and government facilities without resorting to atomic weapons, and also betrays Moscow’s uncertainty over the efficacy of its own conventional weapons systems.
The new policy document also states for the first time that Russia could use its nuclear arsenal if it receives “reliable information” about the launch of ballistic missiles targeting its territory or its allies and also in the case of ”enemy impact on critically important government or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the incapacitation of which could result in the failure of retaliatory action of nuclear forces.”
This is particularly chilling as many recall the events of September 26th 1983 when Soviet detection systems warned of an incoming missile attack.
The cool thinking of Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov of the Soviet Air Defence Forces, the man responsible that moment for “pressing the button”, led to him disobeying orders, thus preventing a devastating retaliatory missile launch against what was a false alarm. The subsequent inquiry revealed so many flaws in the system that Petrov was quietly sidelined and the incident was not publicly acknowledged for a decade.
The Krasnaya Zvezda article states that “the specifics of retaliatory action, such as where, when and how much will be determined by Russia’s military-political leadership depending on the situation.”
Petrov passed away on19th May 2017 aged 77. His actions are now widely acknowledged, and he has been honoured across the globe.
Very modest about his actions, in an interview for the film The Man Who Saved the World, he said, “All that happened didn’t matter to me—it was my job. I was simply doing my job, and I was the right person at the right time, that’s all. My late wife for 10 years knew nothing about it. ‘So what did you do?’ she asked me. ‘Nothing. I did nothing'”.