LONDON (Reuters) – Asked if Russia would rule out a pre-emptive tactical nuclear strike against Ukraine, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday that a decision on the possible use of nuclear weapons was clearly spelled out in Russian military doctrine, RIA reported.
“We have a military doctrine – everything is written there,” said Alexander Grushko, quoted by the official RIA news agency.
Russia’s official military deployment principles allow the use of nuclear weapons if they – or other types of weapons of mass destruction – are used against it, or if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons.
The decision to use Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world, rests with the Russian President, currently Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s invasion has killed thousands, displaced nearly 10 million people and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and the United States – by far the world’s largest nuclear powers.
The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, said on Saturday that Putin believed he could not afford to lose in Ukraine and warned that the West could not ignore the risk of the use of tactical nuclear weapons. by Moscow.
“We don’t see, as an intelligence community, practical evidence at this stage of Russian planning for a deployment or even the use of tactical nuclear weapons,” Burns said.
He warned, however, that “the stakes are very high for Putin’s Russia”.
A decree signed by Putin on June 2, 2020, said that Russia regards its nuclear weapons as “exclusively a means of deterrence”.
It repeats phraseology from military doctrine but adds details of four circumstances in which a nuclear strike would be ordered. These include reliable information about a ballistic missile attack on Russia and an enemy attack “on critical state or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the inability of which would lead to disruption of a nuclear forces response”. .
Putin, who has repeatedly expressed resentment over the West’s treatment of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, says Ukraine was used by the United States to threaten Russia .
He justified his February 24 order for a special military operation by saying that Ukraine had persecuted Russian speakers and that the United States wanted to expand the NATO military alliance in a way that would endanger Russia.
US President Joe Biden presents Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as one fight in a much larger global battle between democracy and autocracy. He also called Putin a war criminal and said the former KGB spy could not stay in power.
Ukraine rejects Russian claims that it has persecuted Russian speakers and says it is fighting for its survival. Russia denies Ukrainian and Western accusations that its forces have committed war crimes.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)