Now bluntly: what the new nuclear doctrine shows the world

Now bluntly: what the new nuclear doctrine shows the world

Now bluntly: what the new nuclear doctrine shows the world

4 June 2020, 16:35
By his decree, President Vladimir Putin outlined the basis for state planning in the field of nuclear deterrence. His decree immediately received the unofficial name of "nuclear doctrine" and is widely discussed in expert circles.

Victor Kuzovkov

Moreover, not only in Russia - the specialized (and not only) media of the largest states of the world considered it necessary to speak out about this document. Many called the decree a “signal” to Donald Trump, and some did not begin to specify so and speak of a signal to the whole West.

If you carefully study the document, you will partly have to agree with our foreign colleagues - the signal is indeed given, and it is very unequivocal. But first things first…

First of all, we note that the document is extremely pragmatic. Unlike previous years (and decades), when we pledged not to use nuclear weapons first, we necessarily linked the use of nuclear weapons with a similar threat to Russia from other countries, it is now clearly said that Russia can use nuclear weapons even attacks on it using non-nuclear means. Yes, it’s not about any attack, but only about one that could threaten the very existence of our state. Nevertheless, this is a serious change in approaches to the very principle of the use of nuclear weapons.

Have conventional conventional weapons not stepped forward in recent decades? Do we not see, as an example, already several major conflicts, how entire states become absolutely helpless as a result of just a few hours of bombing and massive attacks by cruise missiles? Is not the strategy of the so-called “global strike” realized by the Americans, which implies the possibility of a sudden strike on the strategic targets of any enemy anywhere in the world? Moreover, this threat is supplemented by further improvement of stealth technologies and persistent developments in the field of hypersound. That is, if successful, the doctrine of a global "decapitation" strike will become even more deadly, and here, indeed, it is justified to give a nuclear response. Or, what’s even more reasonable, clearly articulate the possibility of such an answer.

Another example where conventional weapons can inflict tremendous damage to the defense capability of even such a weak state as Russia is our strategic nuclear submarine missile carriers. One Borey-class submarine hosts 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles with ten nuclear warheads each. And you can drown it, with a certain amount of luck, with just one torpedo with a conventional warhead. Well, one will be difficult. But after all, the enemy may well give a salvo of six, and this is already such damage that will lead either to the death of the boat, or to its failure. Agree, a good exchange - a few conventional torpedoes for 160 nuclear warheads? And now let’s remember that American submarines are constantly on duty near the places where our SSBNs are based and try to "sit on their tail" right at the base in order to covertly monitor and be able to destroy them literally at any moment.

In general, we state once again - the updated doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons is very pragmatic and only reflects new realities. The minimum of politicization, reassuring gestures, and talk about world peace - it seems that this is the first document of this kind, adopted just for internal use, and not in order to look like angels in the eyes of our “partners”. Or vice versa, this is really a signal urging all interested states to stay away from Russian strategic (and not only) objects.

Another new aspect was the mention of the states in whose territory foreign troops are deployed. Perhaps this is a fairly transparent hint of you know which military bloc and its members are thoughtlessly agreeing to host foreign troops and weapons that pose a potential threat to Russia.

In general, this is a very important point. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the average man, a possible nuclear conflict looks something like this: the United States and Russia mutually destroy each other, everyone around them grows numb with horror for a while, and then they collect humanitarian aid for the survivors and book extreme tours to the zones of the post-apocalypse. Alas, in reality, everything can look exactly the opposite. How exactly? Let's try to simulate...

At one time, your humble servant had already formulated something called the "Doctrine of Limited Nuclear Exchange". Its basic position is that not one nuclear state will dare to use its weapons against another nuclear state, simply because it is guaranteed to receive a similar answer. Their confrontation will unfold just on the territory of third countries, one way or another connected with the parties to the conflict.

That is, let's imagine that Russia saw in the actions of the United States a direct and immediate military threat to itself. What will be her first goals? Most likely, they will be the objects of the American missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The goals, admittedly, are almost ideal: they are of great military importance, putting them out of order will significantly increase the chances of a guaranteed nuclear response from Russia, and at the same time not having any fundamental military, industrial or demographic significance for these states themselves. At the same time, the political consequences of such strikes will be colossal. Yes, in a calm time there are only disadvantages from such consequences, but in the threatened period, you can find many advantages. For example, other US partners in NATO will think ten times whether they should support American geopolitical adventures, and someone may be sharply asked to leave the bloc if it does not ensure their security, but quite the opposite.

How can the Americans answer this? If our basic position is correct (and the Americans are clearly not eager to die for Poles and Czechs), then they can inflict a similar blow on Russian military facilities located outside of Russia. There are very few such facilities, but suppose they could be Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Armenia. But the problem is that, following this path, the Americans will inevitably slide into disaster. The reason is simple: Russia does not have many important military facilities outside the metropolis. But the Americans have hundreds, one more important. And very soon, this limited nuclear exchange will become a real military and political disaster for the United States.

Of course, all this can be called ordinary theorizing. But there is some evidence that, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin often used this argument. For example, Ashton Carter, the then acting Secretary of Defense of the United States, in an interview, mentioned that Russia was rattling nuclear weapons. Despite the fact that in the media the Russian authorities did not even allow a hint of something like that, the statement is somewhat strange, agree? But we will remember that it was not anyhow who said it, but one of the most well-informed (just by job) people in the world. And he knew not only about the military preparations of Moscow, but also about the course of diplomatic negotiations, about unofficial, but trustworthy signals from intelligence, and so on.

I recall one more episode of that time, which went almost unnoticed. Wesley Clark, an American retired general with large (very large!) Connections in Washington, said during his visit to Warsaw that the United States would not abandon Poland if Russia dealt a nuclear strike on it. The degree of his awareness can be judged by the fact that at one time he planned to run for the post of head of the Democratic Party of the United States and thus become the party boss of the current, at that time, US President Obama. That is, about the great connections and high awareness of this person is mentioned not in vain ...

These episodes are directly related to the occasion discussed today. Alas, we can say with confidence that in our memory, more recently, there was already a period when the probability of a limited use of nuclear weapons exceeded all reasonable limits. Moreover, it can be assumed that American caution in the Ukrainian issue (and not a single American military unit was introduced into Ukraine, which is simply unbelievable) was directly related to Washington’s fears because, as Carter put it, “Moscow rattling with nuclear weapons” .

Of course, there are no extremist formulations in the document under discussion. Moreover, it is alleged that Moscow considers nuclear weapons only as a means of deterrence, the use of which is an exceptional measure. At the same time, the guaranteed deterrence of a potential adversary from aggression against Russia or its allies is assigned to the highest state priorities. And this, incidentally, is also an interesting innovation: as far as one can judge from open sources, there was simply no mention of allies in this context.

The question, by the way, is far from idle. Firstly, we have not so many allies. Secondly, some of them, for example, Syria, are in a state of civil war and partially occupied by foreign troops. In addition, the Israeli Air Force regularly strikes at Syrian targets, in particular, air defense facilities, which are of great importance for the defense and simply the survival of Syria. Does the new decree mean that Israel and Turkey need to prepare for a nuclear strike by the Russian Federation? Or is interpretation still important here? Maybe the Kremlin will say that Syria is not among our allies, our PIC is there exclusively with a humanitarian mission?

In general, one can note the increased openness of Russia in matters of ensuring nuclear safety and the possible use of nuclear weapons. Previously, our country did not publish such documents, they have always been classified. Of course, one can reasonably note that the question of the real use of nuclear weapons, if it suddenly appears on the agenda, will be decided without regard to decrees, doctrines, international treaties, and so on. Nevertheless, the framework outlined by the decree allows us and our probable opponents to more clearly understand what options are possible in the case of certain hostile actions against Moscow. And the best, probably, what is in this document is healthy pragmatism and the absence of political gossip. Scary? Now imagine how scary it is for those who might find themselves in the sight of our Strategic Rocket Forces.

And fear, as practice shows, is the best guarantee that everything will be fine.

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