Basic Principles of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence. The president of the Russian federation has recently signed a document called “Basic Principles of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence”.The 7 pages official paper details the Russian Nuclear Posture: What Moscow sees as potential threats to the Russian state, who the Russian Nuclear Deterrence is aimed at and under what conditions would the Russian Federation use Nuclear Weapons.
The document states that the Russian Nuclear arsenal is defensive in nature: “The Russian nuclear forces need to remain at a level sufficient for Nuclear Deterrence, thus guaranteeing sovereignty and territorial integrity and deterring adversaries from aggression against the Federation and its allies”.“Guaranteed deterrence that prevents aggression against Russia and/or allies is among the highest national priorities. Should a conflict involving Russia occur, The Nuclear Forces’ role is to prevent escalation through nuclear deterrence as well as ensuring that the conflict termination happens on terms suitable to Moscow”.
The Documents reiterates that the use of nuclear weapons by Moscow is unwanted and kept as a measure of last resort. The document also makes it clear that the decision to use nuclear weapons is made by the president of the Russian Federation.
Who is the Russian Nuclear Deterrence aimed at? The document says that Russia exercises Nuclear Deterrence against “Countries and military blocs that designate Russia as an adversary and which have nuclear weapons and / or other Weapons of Mass Destruction, or “significant” potential of general purpose forces”.
As a defensive tool, those nukes are earmarked to be used only if a few strict conditions are met. One of those conditions is if there is credible information on ballistic missiles launched and attacking the territory of the Russian Federation or the territory of an ally. Another Casus Belli would be the use of other WMD against territories of Russia and (or) allies. Finally, a conventional aggression threatening the existence of the Russian state would also constitute a condition warranting the use of Nuclear Weapons. The most interesting one, however is listed in this paragraph: “Actions by adversaries against critical civilian infrastructure or military installations whose failure could limit Russia’s ability to launch a retaliatory strike.” This effectively includes cyber attacks. Some well known bloggers and journalists have been up in arms regarding this last paragraph, seemingly forgetting that it mirrors a paragraph found in the 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review, which identifies attacks on US civilian infrastructure and command and control as “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks which could warrant the use of Nuclear Weapons”…
Most importantly, this document highlights a series of perceived dangers that in the eyes of Moscow, have the potential to become a military threat to the Federation. As such, those threats, should they grow and become credible, could warrant a Russian pre-emptive Nuclear Strike… What are those dangers? The paper lists a few ones: “Uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons, their delivery systems; deployment of nuclear weapons and delivery systems on the territories of non-nuclear weapon states”. This seems to take aim at NATO Nuclear Sharing Policy. The list goes on: “The deployment of short- and medium range cruise and ballistic missiles; precision-guided conventional weapons, hypersonic weapons, UAVs, directed energy weapons and early warning systems close to the Russian Federation Border”. Other dangers listed include “The deployment of missile defence systems in space and military buildups by would-be adversaries in territories neighbouring Russia”.