Nikonov’s disclosure is in keeping with Russia’s evolving policy on the use of nuclear weapons. The former Soviet Union maintained a policy against the first use of nukes. In 2000, the government under the leadership of Vladimir Putin abandoned the strict ban to allow for limited use of nuclear weapons “in response to large-scale aggression utilizing conventional weapons in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation.”
The parliamentarian was very specific about the type of circumstances in which the current policy might come into play.
On the issue of NATO expansion on our borders, at some point I heard from the Russian military — and I think they are right — If U.S. forces, NATO forces, are, were, in the Crimea, in eastern Ukraine, Russia is undefendable militarily in case of conflict without using nuclear weapons in the early stage of the conflict.”
Russia’s forthright discussion of the use of nukes comes at a time when the Putin government is investing more money in defense, with emphasis on new intercontinental ballistic missiles and so-called “strategic” nuclear forces as a priority over other government expenditures.
American defense experts credit the Russians for maintaining their nuclear posture better than the U.S. has.
At the Booz Allen Hamilton Directed Energy Summit in March, Maj. Gen. William Hix, the Army’s director of strategy, acknowledged the Russians “maintain their tactical nuclear stockpile in ways that we have not.”
The more aggressive Russian posture has prompted the Trump Administration to seek more money for defense and to ask NATO partners to join in ramping up defense efforts.
In the two years since Russia brazenly annexed the Crimean part of the Ukraine, NATO members have begun to invest more in defense. Craig Caffrey, principal analyst at IHS Jane’s, reported in October on the new spending levels.
In 2018, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are projected to spend nearly $670 million, up from $210 million in 2014. This growth is faster than any other region globally. In 2005, the region’s total defense budget was $930 million. By 2020, the region’s defense budget will be $2.1 billion.”
NATO already has undertaken expansion of its troop presence in Eastern Europe. In April 2016, the size of the NATO forces in the Baltics was increased. This past January, the United States sent 4,000 troops for stationing in Poland.
Despite the strong message regarding the use of nukes, Nikonov expressed a willingness to find ways to resolve diplomatic issues peacefully, but also warned about NATO’s present course.
For Russia, the definition of success in dealing with neighbors is to make them as friendly to Russia as possible,” he said at the GLOBSEC forum. “The definition of success for many people sitting in this room is how to distance those countries from Russia. I think these are conflicting goals.”
As a renewed Cold War comes more into focus, it’s apparent both sides are engaging in a new arms race while looking for ways to avoid a direct confrontation.
Source: Defense One