Russia’s Nuclear Strategy Raises Concerns in NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dec. 4, 2014Concern is growing in NATO over Russia’s nuclear strategy and indications that Russian military planners may be lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons in any conflict, alliance diplomats say.

NATO officials have drawn up an analysis of Russian nuclear strategy that will be discussed by alliance defence ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday [February 5, 2015].

The study comes amid high tension between NATO and Russia over the Ukraine conflict and rising suspicions on both sides that risk plunging Europe back into a Cold War-style confrontation.

Western concerns have also been fuelled by increasingly aggressive Russian air and sea patrolling close to NATO’s borders, such as two Russian “Bear” nuclear-capable bombers that flew over the English Channel last week….

Russia’s nuclear strategy appears to point to a lowering of the threshold for using nuclear weapons in any conflict, NATO diplomats say.

“What worries us most in this strategy is the modernisation of the Russian nuclear forces, the increase in the level of training of those forces and the possible combination between conventional actions and the use of nuclear forces, including possibly in the framework of a hybrid war,” one diplomat said….

[A]ll 28 ministers, including U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, will have a broader discussion of Russia’s nuclear strategy over lunch. No immediate action is expected from NATO’s side.

Ministers are likely to ask officials to look into the implications of Russia’s nuclear strategy for the alliance, and only then could there be any consideration of whether any changes were needed to NATO’s nuclear posture….

President Vladimir Putin pointedly noted last August that Russia was a leading nuclear power when he advised potential enemies: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

A report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service last year said Russia “seems to have increased its reliance on nuclear weapons in its national security concept”.

Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dec. 4, 2014 (photo: Office of the President of Russia)