We are deeply disappointed with the new US Nuclear Posture Review, which was made public on February 2. The first impression is: the document is focused on confrontation and is anti-Russian. It is regrettable that the United States justifies its policy of massive nuclear build-up with references to Russia’s policy of nuclear modernisation and the allegedly increased reliance on nuclear weapons in Russia’s doctrines.
None of this has any connection with reality. Russia’s Military Doctrine clearly limits the possibility of using nuclear weapons to two hypothetical defensive scenarios: first, in response to an aggression against Russia and/or its allies involving the use of nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction, and second, in response to a non-nuclear aggression, but only if Russia’s survival is endangered. The 2014 Military Doctrine introduced a new term, the “system of non-nuclear deterrence,” which implies preventing aggression primarily through reliance on conventional (non-nuclear) forces.
Therefore, readiness to use nuclear weapons to prevent Russia from using its nuclear arsenal, expressed in the new Nuclear Posture Review, amounts to putting in question our right to defend ourselves against an aggression that threatens the country’s survival. We would like to hope that Washington is aware of the high level of danger when such doctrinal provisions move to the level of practical military planning.
We are deeply concerned about Washington’s no-limits approach, under which it might use nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances,” which are not limited to military scenarios in the new US doctrine. Moreover, even military scenarios are presented so ambiguously that it seems like the US planners may view practically any use of military capability as a reason for delivering a nuclear strike against anyone they consider an “aggressor.” If this is not the doctrinal enhancement of the role of nuclear weapons, what then does Washington imply when it uses the term with regard to Russia?
In addition to this, the new Nuclear Posture Review sets out sweeping nuclear modernisation plans. Of special concern are the US plans to modify existing SLCMs to “provide a low-yield option” and also to create a low-yield warhead for the Trident II SLBMs. Nuclear weapons with such options are clearly designed as battlefield weapons. This will greatly increase the temptation of using them, especially considering the right to a disarming first strike as set out in the new US doctrine. Assurances that the implementation of these plans will not lower the nuclear threshold can at least be interpreted as a desire to delude the international community. It is even more frightening that the US military and other national security professionals firmly believe in their ability to model conflict scenarios that involve low-yield nuclear opinions. Quite to the contrary, we believe that this dramatic lowering of the threshold conditions can provoke a nuclear missile war even in a low-intensity conflict.
Of course, we will have to take into account the new US plans and to take measures to enhance our security.
The US nuclear doctrine abounds in anti-Russian clichés, from allegations of “aggressive behaviour” and interference to ungrounded accusations of alleged violations of a long list of arms control treaties. Washington has been lately producing an uninterrupted stream of such hackneyed allegations. We see this as a malevolent attempt to blame others for the deteriorating international and regional security situation and the unbalancing of arms control mechanisms due to a series of irresponsible US actions.
Russia honours its obligations under all international treaties. We strictly comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) and the Open Skies Treaty. We have never violated the 2011 Vienna Document on confidence and security-building measures or the Budapest Memorandum. We have laid bare the slanderous allegations regarding this more than once. As for the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), Russia cannot be accused of violating it because it suspended its participation in the treaty back in 2007. We did this because the treaty, which was drafted in the era of confrontation of two military-political blocs – the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and NATO, no longer served the new realities. One of these two blocs has long been dissolved, while the other continues to build up its capability as well as expanding its deployment area. These new realities were formalised in the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which the US-led NATO countries refused to ratify, unlike Russia.
Likewise, it is untrue what the new US Nuclear Posture Review says about Russia’s alleged refusal to implement the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) of 1991-1992, which concern the two countries’ political commitments to withdraw and reduce non-strategic nuclear weapons (tactical nuclear weapons, or TNWs). Acting in keeping with the PNIs, Russia has reduced the greater part (75 per cent) of its TNWs and has removed the rest from their delivery vehicles for storage at the central storage facilities in the national territory. It was an unprecedented reduction of the operational status of nuclear weapons and a major review of their place and role in the national military doctrine. Although the PNIs are not a legally binding international agreement, they continue to be relevant to us up to this day.
It is notable that the United States still has TNWs in Europe and is even modernising and deploying them in direct proximity to Russian borders. Moreover, NATO maintains the practice of nuclear sharing, or joint nuclear missions, when non-nuclear European bloc members are involved in planning for the use of US nuclear weapons and in training in their use, which is a gross violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Another example of fact-juggling is the claim that Russia has refused to continue to reduce its nuclear weapons. We repeatedly confirmed our commitment to our obligations under Article VI of the NPT. We expressed our readiness more than once to discuss any questions related to the strengthening of international security. We pointed out, including to our American partners, that the conditions for the continuation of nuclear disarmament can be created through the settlement of key strategic security problems, such as the unilateral and unlimited deployment of US BMD systems, the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept, as well as the US refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) or to pledge not to deploy weapons in space.
It is also obvious that disarmament efforts should involve all nuclear-capable states, primarily the UK and France as Washington’s nuclear weapons allies. The latter is especially important considering the intention, which has been proclaimed in the Nuclear Posture Review, to use NATO’s overall deterrence and defence posture, including its nuclear forces, against Russia. We point out that our American partners have not mentioned their obligations under Article VI of the NPT in this review.
In light of the above, the claim that the United States “seeks stable relations” and looks forward to resuming “constructive engagement” in order to manage nuclear risks sounds utterly hypocritical.
Russia is indeed ready for such engagement. We urge the United States to join forces with Russia in order to find solutions to the growing number of problems in the area of strategic stability.