MOSCOW – Jun 3, 2020 – Earlier in the week, Vladimir Putin amended the Fundamentals of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence, by means of presidential decree. The decree sets out that Russia’s nuclear deterrence policy is defensive in nature and is aimed at maintaining the potential of nuclear forces at a level sufficient for this. It also claims it guarantees protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. The decree alters official policy but comes more closely with the reality of the posture that has developed as a result of the US’ policy since at least 2010.
The United States has refused to adopt a no first use policy and says that it “reserves the right to use” nuclear weapons first in the case of conflict. The US doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons was revised most recently in the Nuclear Posture Review, released April 6, 2010.
The language of the Russian decree drapes its first strike policy in the language of defense.
“The Russian Federation considers nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence, the use of which is an extreme and necessary measure, and is making all necessary efforts to reduce the nuclear threat and prevent aggravation of interstate relations that can provoke military conflicts, including nuclear ones,” the document says.
Russia will be ready to use nuclear weapons in the event of the use of weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies, as well as in the case of non-nuclear aggression against the Russian Federation, which would threaten the existence of the Russian state and the possibility of a retaliatory nuclear strike.
The conditions for the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia in the document are the receipt of reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles attacking the territory of Russia and (or) its allies, as well as the use by the enemy of the territory of the country and its allies of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.
In addition, the Russian Federation will be ready to use nuclear weapons if the enemy acts on its critically important state and military facilities, the failure of which will disrupt the response of nuclear forces, and in the case of aggression using conventional weapons, which would threaten the very existence of the Russian state .
The document says that the president can, if necessary, inform the military-political leadership of other countries and international organizations about their readiness to use nuclear weapons, about the decision to use them, and about the fact of using nuclear weapons.
Guaranteed deterrence of a potential adversary from aggression against Russia and (or) its allies is one of the highest state priorities.
“The containment of aggression is provided by the entire aggregate of the military power of the Russian Federation, including nuclear weapons,” the document says.
According to the decree, Russia’s nuclear deterrence measures are carried out continuously, in compliance with its international obligations in the field of arms control. In addition, the possibility of adapting policies to military threats is taken into account.
Among the principles of a nuclear deterrence policy are indicated the centralization of government, the rationality of the structure and composition of nuclear forces and assets, and their maintenance at the minimum level sufficient to fulfill the tasks. At the same time, part of the forces is maintained in constant readiness for combat use.
The uncertainty for a potential adversary of the scale, time and place of the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia is also called crucial.
With nuclear deterrence, Russia will take into account the deployment of hypersonic and laser weapons, missiles and shock unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a potential adversary. Among the main military dangers that could escalate into military threats of the Russian Federation and to neutralize which nuclear deterrence is carried out, are called “deployment by states that consider the Russian Federation as a potential adversary, anti-ballistic missile defense systems and systems, cruise and ballistic missiles of medium and shorter range, high-precision non-nuclear and hypersonic weapons, shock unmanned aerial vehicles, weapons of directed energy. ”
Russia considers the creation and deployment in space of anti-ballistic missile defense (ABM) and strike systems a danger, the neutralization of which requires nuclear deterrence. In the text of the document, among the main military dangers that could develop into military threats of the Russian Federation and to neutralize which nuclear deterrence is carried out, is called “the creation and deployment in space of anti-ballistic missile defense systems and strike systems.”
Plans to develop hypersonic missiles have already been announced in the United States, they are one of the leaders in the development of laser weapons. Russia has also repeatedly pointed to US plans to deploy weapons in space. In particular, on February 25, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov , speaking at the Conference on Disarmament, said that “the plans of the United States, France and the North Atlantic Alliance as a whole to launch weapons into space are becoming more and more real.” At the same time, Lavrov noted that it is not too late to prevent force confrontation in space by formulating general rules of conduct.