Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday raised the possibility that Russia could formally change its current nuclear doctrine, which states that the country will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, an alarming statement amid rising tensions in the war in Ukraine.
Speaking publicly at a summit in Kyrgyzstan, the president said they could embrace what he described as “an American concept” of using preemptive military strikes, saying he has the weapons to get the job done.
Putin opined, without any basis in reality, that US policy was not to exclude the possibility of a “disarming” nuclear attack. “We’re just thinking about it. They were not shy about talking openly about it during the last few years,” Putin said, referring to the US policy.
In Washington, advisers to President Joe Biden regarded Putin’s comments as “saber rattling” and another veiled warning that he could deploy a tactical nuclear weapon, according to a press release issued by a US official who was not authorized to speak. comment and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Speaking on Friday from the US Strategic Command, which has responsibility for the nation’s nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Putin’s repeated threats were irresponsible.
Imitating the US “disarmament” doctrine
For years, the Kremlin has expressed concern about US efforts to develop a Conventional Immediate Global Strike system that envisions hitting an adversary’s strategic targets with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within an hour.
“Speaking of a disarmament attack, perhaps it is worth thinking about adopting the ideas developed by our American counterpart to ensure their security,” Putin said with a slight smile.
He claimed that Russia has already commissioned hypersonic weapons capable of carrying out such an attack. He also claimed that Russia now has cruise missiles that outperform US counterparts.
While Putin appeared to be referring to conventional precision-guided weapons when discussing the possibility of mimicking the US strategy, he specifically noted that the US has not ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons.
“If the potential adversary thinks they can use the theory of a preemptive strike and we don’t, it makes us think about the threats such ideas pose to the defensive posture of other countries,” he said.
Asked days earlier at a Kremlin conference if Russia could commit to foregoing a first strike, Putin replied that such an obligation could prevent Russia from taking advantage of its nuclear arsenal even if it suffers a nuclear attack.
“If you don’t use it first under any circumstances, it means you won’t be the second to use it either, because the possibility of using it in case of a nuclear attack on our territory will be very limited,” he said.
During his remarks on Friday, he said that Russia’s nuclear doctrine is based on the concept of “alert launch,” which envisions the use of nuclear weapons in the face of an imminent nuclear attack detected by its early warning systems.
“When the early warning system receives a signal about a missile attack, we launch hundreds of missiles that are impossible to stop,” he said. “Enemy missile warheads would inevitably reach the territory of the Russian Federation. But there would be nothing left of the enemy either, because it is impossible to intercept hundreds of missiles. And this, of course, is a deterrent.”
Russia’s nuclear doctrine states that the country can use nuclear weapons if it suffers a nuclear attack or if it faces a conventional weapons attack that threatens “the very existence” of the Russian state.
Since sending Russian troops to Ukraine in February, Putin has repeatedly said that Moscow was ready to use “all available means” to protect its territory and has rejected Western criticism of nuclear threats.