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Published Secret Papers Have Evidence Of Putin's Readiness To Use Nuclear Weapons

Published Secret Papers Have Evidence Of Putin's Readiness To Use Nuclear Weapons

What are the targets?

Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons in conventional combat operations and not only as a retaliatory measure, but also to "sober up" the enemy. The criteria for its application turned out to be much softer than ever publicly recognized by Russian leaders, writes the Financial Times, which got secret papers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

The files, which describe the principles of using tactical nuclear weapons, scenarios for their use during military exercises and contain presentations for officers of the Navy, were provided to the newspaper by Western sources. Although they date back to 2008-2014, the approach described in the files corresponds to the current military doctrine of Russia, which, in particular, can be seen from the practice of using nuclear weapons during exercises, including in recent years, experts interviewed by the FT are sure.

Unlike strategic nuclear weapons aimed at the main enemy – the United States, tactical ones (can be delivered on land, by aircraft and sea-based missiles) are intended for use in Europe and Asia. Including against China: some exercises describe its use in the event of an attack by Chinese troops on Russia. The capabilities of nuclear forces in the Far East are maintained and tested to date, including with the help of missiles that reach only Chinese territory.

The classified documents describe the following criteria for the use of tactical nuclear warheads. According to the United States, Russia has about 2,000 pieces.

General principles (considered as a combination of factors in which losses among Russian troops "clearly lead to their inability to stop major enemy aggression" and create a "critical situation for the security of the Russian state"):

– landing of enemy troops on the territory of Russia,

– defeat of units protecting border areas,

– imminent attack with conventional weapons.

More specific criteria:

– destruction of 20% of submarines carrying strategic ballistic missiles

– destruction of 30% of nuclear submarines, three or more cruisers, three military airfields

– simultaneous strike on the main and reserve ground command centers.

Also, the Russian Armed Forces should be able to use tactical nuclear weapons for a wide range of purposes, including “deterring other states from using aggression […] or from escalating armed conflicts,” “stopping aggression,” preventing defeat or loss of territory, and “increasing the effectiveness” of the Navy.

For the first time, such documents were publicly available, Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Berlin Center for the Study of Russia and Eurasia, told the FT:

"It can be seen from them that the operational criteria for the use of nuclear weapons are quite soft, if the desired result cannot be achieved with the help of conventional weapons.

The question of the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine was repeatedly raised during 2022, when Russia could not quickly capture Kiev and other important cities, was forced to withdraw troops, suffered major defeats near Kharkiv and Kherson and hastily annexed the territories of four occupied Ukrainian regions. Vladimir Putin and especially Dmitry Medvedev have repeatedly threatened a nuclear strike, including in the event of an attempt to liberate "new territories".

The blackmail worked, according to the Chief International Correspondent of The Wall Street Journal, Yaroslav Trofimov, who has been covering events in Ukraine since the beginning of 2022. The United States several times in the first year of the war did not dare to supply Ukraine with weapons that could radically turn the tide of the conflict because of the risks of a nuclear strike, according to Trofimov's recent book, he was citing Ukrainian and American officials, military and intelligence officers.

The files at the disposal of the FT are aimed at preparing Russian military units for action in a situation where the authorities may decide to use nuclear weapons, says Jack Watling, a senior researcher at the Royal United Services Institute.

The criteria described in the documents continue to apply – this can be seen from the exercises that Russia conducted both before and after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, says William Alberque, the Director of Strategy, Technology and Arms Control at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Moscow believes that tactical nuclear weapons can be used to prevent an armed conflict from escalating into a large-scale war, including with the participation of the United States. Its use at an early stage or the threat of use should “sober up” opponents, explains Alberque, who previously worked for NATO and the US Department of Defence:

“In their view, this can best be achieved by using what they call the 'metered' use of nuclear weapons at a much lower level of confrontation to prevent escalation.”

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