According to leaked files Russia’s nuclear strike criteria is much lower than expected

Important Takeaways:

  • Leaked military documents outline Russia’s doctrine for tactical nuclear weapons use, including the minimum criteria for using tactical nuclear weapons, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Feb. 28.
  • Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons are designed for use on the battlefield in Europe and Asia, and have a more limited range compared to strategic nuclear weapons, which could reach the U.S.
  • The 29 Russian military files, which date from between 2008 and 2014, indicate a threshold “lower than Russia has ever publicly admitted, according to experts who reviewed and verified the documents,”
  • The criteria range “from an enemy incursion on Russian territory to more specific triggers, such as the destruction of 20% of Russia’s strategic ballistic missile submarines,” the FT said.
  • The destruction of three or more large surface warships, three airfields, 30% of its nuclear-powered attack submarines, or a “simultaneous hit on main and reserve coastal command centers” are also listed as potential conditions for a nuclear strike.
  • The documents also indicate a distrust of China, despite growing ties between Moscow and Beijing. Training materials indicate that Russia’s eastern military district conducted exercises that envisaged a hypothetical attack by China.

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