“Nuclear Doctrine”… Russia Hints at a “World-Threatening” Amendment

Changing the “nuclear doctrine”… A decision that Moscow does not rule out, in response to what it describes as increasing threats facing Russia.

The decision was brought back to the forefront by Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Defense Committee in the Russian State Duma, on Sunday, in statements reported by the Russian news agency, where he confirmed that “Moscow might change its thinking regarding the appropriate timing to use nuclear weapons if the threats facing Russia increase.”

The former general’s statements were preceded by warnings from President Vladimir Putin that Moscow might change its nuclear doctrine, which specifies the circumstances under which such weapons can be used.

Putin also said that “Russia could test a nuclear weapon if necessary, although he does not see the need for that at the moment.”

What did the Russian MP say?

The agency quoted Kartapolov saying, “If we see that the challenges and threats are increasing, this means we can adjust something (in the doctrine) regarding the appropriate timing for using nuclear weapons and the decision to use them.”

He added, “But of course, it is too early to talk about details now.”

The escalation in statements regarding nuclear weapons comes at a time when diplomats in both Russia and the United States say Moscow’s war in Ukraine, which Russia launched against its neighbor in 2022, is going through its most dangerous phase so far.

What is the Russian nuclear doctrine?

The 2020 Russian nuclear principles specify when the president might consider using a nuclear weapon. There are only four situations:

Receiving reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles towards Russia and its allies.

Receiving information about an enemy potentially targeting vital Russian governmental or military sites.

Russia or its allies being attacked with weapons of mass destruction.

Russia being attacked with conventional weapons that threaten its existence as a state.

Putin proposed “lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons and increasing the number of scenarios stipulated in the Russian nuclear doctrine.”

The Global Situation

In recent years, nuclear-armed countries, including the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, have been updating their nuclear arsenals.

According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, about 9,585 warheads out of 12,121—the total global stockpile as of January 2024—were listed under potential use.

Approximately 3,904 of these warheads were deployed on missiles and aircraft, 60 more than in January 2023.

According to the institute, almost all of these warheads belong to Russia and the United States, but for the first time, it is believed that China has some warheads in a high operational readiness state.

Russia and the United States together possess nearly 90% of the total nuclear weapons, and transparency regarding nuclear capabilities in both countries decreased in 2023.

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