The Scary Reasons NATO and the World should fear Russia’s Nuclear Weapons

The Scary Reasons NATO (and the World) Should Fear Russia’s Nuclear Weapons (Source nationalinterest.org)

Russia faces real challenges in sustaining its military modernization efforts, given low oil prices, Western sanctions and the cost of operations in Ukraine and Syria. Despite that, Moscow looks set to continue the program. At its heart is nuclear weapons modernization. Russia’s most recent military doctrine, released in 2014, continues to emphasize the primacy of nuclear weapons in Russian defense policy, stating: “Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to a use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against her and (or) her allies, and in the case of an aggression against her with conventional weapons that would put in danger the very existence of the state.”

Three developments suggest a willingness by Russia to use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks in a manner that lowers the threshold of nuclear war. First, the concept of preventative de-escalation is important. A recent IISS analysis explained de-escalation in which limited nuclear war could be used to:

“…de-escalate and terminate combat actions on terms acceptable to Russia through the threat of inflicting unacceptable damage upon the enemy. Such limited nuclear use may deter both nuclear and conventional aggression.” Second, the integration of conventional pre-nuclear and nuclear forces reinforces Russia’s coercive power against NATO in the pre-war ‘Phase Zero’ in a future regional crisis—for example, in the Baltics. And third, the Russians are clearly conscious of that coercive power given their recent nuclear signalling that suggests Russia continues to see such weapons as a means of national strength. Russia has undertaken sabre rattling through simulated nuclear strikes in large-scale exercises and aggressive probing of NATO airspace with nuclear-capable bombers. It has demonstrated the dual-role Kalibr NK sea-launched cruise missile in deadly strikes against Syria, and deployed dual-role Iskander short-range ballistic missiles into Kaliningrad in a manner that was highly threatening to NATO. That has been backed by public statements which reinforce Russia’s nuclear weapons capability and even explicit nuclear threats to NATO states, notably Denmark. Russian nuclear forces are being swiftly upgraded with the focus on ICBM modernization. The strategic nuclear force modernization is important but it’s the integration of Russia’s conventional pre-nuclear forces with its large ‘non-strategic nuclear forces’ that’s of greatest significance. That’s shaping Russian thinking on the use of nuclear weapons, particularly during Hybrid Warfare, in a way that makes the risk of a crisis with Russia much more dangerous. Russia is increasingly focusing on the use of its nuclear forces to enhance its ability to undertake military adventurism at the conventional level in a manner that’s highly threatening to NATO. 

Russia announces it has developed the next generation of weapons using plasma, lasers and electromagnetic forces and ‘physical principles never used before’ (Source dailymail.co.uk)
Russia says it is working on a new range of laser, plasma and electromagnetic weapons as well as hypersonic missiles which would be able to hit a US aircraft carrier before the Pentagon even realised it had been fired. The Kremlin’s Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov said yesterday: ‘Coming next are hypersonic weapons, which require the use of principally new materials and control systems that operate in a completely different medium, in plasma.’

A hypersonic weapon is a missile which travels at Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound – and it would enable the Russians to strike a target thousands of miles away within minutes.   

Tass reported that Mr Borisov told journalists at the Russian Academoy of Sciences that Moscow: ‘We expect an especially serious breakthrough in the field of laser issues, electromagnetic weapons and so on.’ Mr Borisov said Russian scientists were also working on future weapons which were ‘based on physical principles never used before in this field’. He said: ‘Coming next are completely new principles of troop operations’ control because today one who learns to detect the enemy quicker and give the target designation – and all this has to be done in real time – is the one who actually wins.’

Painting a picture of a computer games-style world where the winner of a military conflict was the country who could operate complex weapons systems quickest, he said war decisions which previously took hours or even days were now down to minutes and ‘soon these will be seconds’. He said: ‘We have mapped out a plan of action. On the one hand, our officers are learning in the direct meaning of this word – special courses are being organised for them. On the other hand, we have kindled academic institutes with our ideas to some extent and they are beginning to think about new approaches to modelling serious operations.’ 

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