Moscow— Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his State of the Nation Address to the Russian Federal Assembly on Thursday, announcing that Russia would acknowledge any nuclear attack on its allies as a direct attack on Russia and would immediately retaliate, noting that Russia’s military doctrine allows for use of nuclear weapons in response to use of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies.
“I believe it as my duty to say this: any use of nuclear weapons of any yield – small, medium or whatever— against Russia or its allies will be regarded as a nuclear attack against our country. Retaliation will be instant with all the ensuing consequences,” Putin said, drawing thunderous applause.
Putin noted Russia’s concerns about the United States’ 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) potentially lowering the threshold for nuclear weapon use by the U.S.
“Some of the provisions of the updated US nuclear strategy review, which reduces the threshold for using nuclear weapons, trigger tremendous concern. One can try to calm down anyone behind the scenes as one chooses, but we read what has been written. It is written in such a way that it can be used in response to a conventional weapon strike or even in response to a cyberthreat,” Putin said.
Presciently, just last week, RealClearDefense noted that the NPR’s “call for developing more low-yield nuclear assets and its cavalier lowering of the threshold for nuclear use—despite its claim to the contrary—undermine the NPR’s central thesis, which is ‘to deter threats and reassure allies.’”
Putin stressed that Russian military doctrine “reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies or in the event of aggression with the use of conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is jeopardized.”
“Everything is very clear and specific,” he said.
The Russian leader went on to say that Russia had a wide array of newly developed nuclear weapons, specifically mentioning a nuclear missile developed near the end of 2017 which he claimed cannot be intercepted by anti-missile systems and could hit any location in the world.
“A low-flying low-visibility cruise missile armed with a nuclear warhead and possessing a practically unlimited range, unpredictable flight path and the capability to impregnate practically all interception lines is invulnerable to all existing and future anti-missile and air defense weapons,” Putin said.
With the U.S. holding Syrian territory and refusing to leave, and claims that the U.S. NPR has lowered the threshold for tactical nuclear weapon use, Putin’s comments reveal the capacity of conflicts turning into a more extensive exchange.