Moscow has reiterated that its nuclear doctrine is self-explanatory as top Russian officials repeatedly stated that the conflict in Ukraine does not meet any of its criteria. The statement followed US President Joe Biden’s threat of a harsh, “consequential” response should Russia use the weapons of mass destruction.
“Read the doctrine, everything is written there,” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti on Saturday, when asked about the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
According to Russia’s nuclear posture, Moscow reserves the right to use nukes only “in response to the use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or its allies,” as well as “in response to a conventional attack that threatens the very existence” of Russia as a sovereign state.
The latest update to the doctrine, made in 2020, clarified two more scenarios for the possible use of nukes: in case of receiving “credible information about the launch of ballistic missiles” targeting the territory of Russia or its allies, or an attack “on critical infrastructure that controls nuclear weapons,” potentially rendering the deterrent inoperable.
However, none of these hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine, Russian officials told the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in New York on several occasions last month. In mid-August, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu also dismissed as “absurd” claims that Moscow might use nukes in Ukraine, saying there are no targets there that would warrant doing so.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Friday that so far, Moscow has demonstrated a reserved reaction to actions by the Ukrainian authorities, such as attempts to target vital infrastructure on Russian soil or to stage “terror attacks.”
We’re witnessing attempts to stage terror attacks, attempts to damage our civilian infrastructure. We respond to this with restraint, but only for the time being,” Putin stated, triggering speculation that the approach may change in the future.
In an interview with CBS News, a part of which was released on Friday, US President Joe Biden was asked what he would say if he learned that Moscow is considering the use of weapons of mass destruction.
“Don’t, don’t, don’t,” Biden said. “You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.” However, the US president declined to specify what the US response would be, only saying it would be “consequential.”