Russia does not appear to use nuclear weapons, former Russian generals say | News about the Russian-Ukrainian war

Russia is incapable of using nuclear weapons Two retired Russian generals have told Al Jazeera unless NATO launches an operation in Ukraine unless NATO sets foot on the ground.

Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired lieutenant general, served as the top arms control negotiator for the Russian military from 2001 to 2009.

However, Mr. Buzhnisky stressed that Russia has little benefit from the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine under the current circumstances.

He argues that the Russian military does not need nuclear weapons to achieve strategic goals, such as destroying transportation infrastructure used to transfer Western arms shipments or damaging networks. electricity in this country.

Zaporizhzhia . nuclear power plant
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. [File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Mutual destruction

At the same time, Buzhinsky warned that launching a nuclear attack would almost certainly send Moscow and Washington into a dangerous spiral of escalation.

“There can’t be a limited use of nuclear weapons – it’s an illusion,” he said.

“Any nuclear conflict between Russia and the United States will lead to complete annihilation of each other.”

A similar assessment was made by Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired lieutenant general who spent more than 40 years working in the foreign intelligence services of the Soviet Union and Russia.

Reshetnikov told Al Jazeera that the prospect of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine is “unlikely and would have little military significance” right now.

He suggested such a move would be a stark deviation from the risk-averse strategy Russia has pursued in Ukraine so far, noting that the Kremlin waited almost seven months before announcing it. partial mobilization.

However, direct involvement of NATO troops in the conflict could change Moscow’s calculus.

“The United States and practically all of Europe have entered into this conflict by providing Ukraine with weapons, intelligence, instructors and volunteers,” Reshetnikov said.

“If this continues to escalate, then that creates the risk of a global war in which nuclear weapons could be used.”

For some, the current confrontation brings back memories of the Cold War, a time of extreme global tension when the Soviet Union and Washington competed in an arms race for nuclear supremacy. .

According to Reshetnikov, “The Cold War is meaningless compared to today’s situation”.

“What we are seeing now is both sides trying to put pressure on each other, gradually moving towards the possibility of a direct confrontation. I don’t think we will see nuclear war today or tomorrow, but it is difficult to say how the ongoing escalation will develop a year from now.”

Sergei Lavrov sits at the same table in the Security Council with the rest of the Russian delegation behind
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended the war and accused Ukraine of atrocities at the UN. [Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Reuters]

Nuclear capabilities

Russia is said to have the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, with nearly 6,000 warheads, according to estimate from the Federation of American Scientists.

Along with China, Russia is also one of the leaders in the development of hypersonic missiles, capable of traveling at five times the speed of sound and changing trajectory mid-flight.

Under the nuclear doctrine adopted in 2020, Russia states that it is ready to use nuclear weapons if it receives information about an incoming, attacked ballistic missile involving nuclear weapons. or other weapons of mass destruction, with damage to critical infrastructure. control its nuclear arsenal, or if it faces a conventional military threat puts “the existence of [Russian] state itself” in jeopardy.

INTERACT Russia's nuclear program
(Al Jazeera)

Concerns about the possibility of a nuclear escalation have increased since the start of the war in Ukraine.

A few days after sending troops to his neighboring country, Russian President Vladimir Putin command The military put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert in response to what he called “aggressive statements” from NATO powers.

In a speech on national television on Wednesday, Putin accused Western governments “nuclear blackmail” and seek to “weak, divide and destroy” Russia through their military support to Ukraine.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all means at our disposal to defend Russia and its people,” he said, a The comment was interpreted as a thinly veiled nuclear threat.

“This is not a hoax,” continued Putin. “Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also change direction for them.”

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seemed to continue to raise the bar on Thursday as he declare that the Kremlin could use nuclear weapons to defend territories annexed to Russia from Ukraine.

The rhetoric from Moscow has aroused condemnation from the West.

US President Joe Biden accused Putin made “overt nuclear threats” against Europe and showed “a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the nuclear non-proliferation regime”.

Biden was previously threatened Russia will respond with “consequences” if Moscow uses chemical or tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters news agency that the security bloc would “ensure that there is no misunderstanding in Moscow about the seriousness of the use of nuclear weapons”, adding added that they did not observe any change in Russia’s nuclear posture. .

In an interview with the British Guardian newspaper, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, called on other nuclear powers to commit to “rapid retaliatory nuclear strikes” against Russia if Moscow tries to use its weapons in Ukraine.

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