Russia Updates Nuclear Doctrine Amid Global Tensions

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CDS Africa

Administrator . Updated July 15, 2024

On June 24 Russia revealed that it has started updating its nuclear doctrine and has set out conditions under which such weapons could be used for its future military decisions. 

Russia’s existing doctrine stipulates that it may use nuclear weapons in response to nuclear attack or in the event of a conventional attack that poses an ‘existential threat’ to the former soviet nation.

In a statement released by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, citing an earlier statement by President Vladimir Putin explained that President Putin has assured that work is underway to bring the doctrine in line with current realities.

In a related development, President Putin on a recent trip to North Korea, indicated possible changes to Russia's nuclear doctrine, considering a lower threshold for nuclear use amid tensions. He clarified no intent for preemptive strikes while emphasizing deterrence efforts with North Korea. He further cautioned against South Korea supplying arms to Ukraine amidst regional security concerns.

A senior member of the Russian parliament has also hinted that Moscow could reduce the decision-making time stipulated in official policy for the use of nuclear weapons if it believes that threats are increasing.

Russia's nuclear doctrine has evolved since the 1960s due to geopolitical changes, technological advances, and strategic shifts. After the Soviet Union broke apart, there was a period of uncertainty for Russia. However, President Vladimir Putin's leadership saw a shift which prioritized upgrading Russia’s nuclear capabilities. This involved developing new ways to deliver nuclear weapons and introducing the concept of "escalate to de-escalate," which means to potentially use nuclear weapons only in limited scenarios. Deterrence remains pivotal, with ongoing technological developments and periodic updates reflecting geopolitical dynamics and strategic goals. These developments underscore Russia's strategic adjustments amidst global nuclear security concerns.

Russia's changing approach to nuclear strategy will affect global peace and security. The Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) agreement was signed during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and has become a foundational principle of nuclear strategy and a significant concept in international relations and nuclear deterrence till date. Yet, it also raises concerns about accidental escalation in conventional conflicts.  

Many have expressed the implications of this move on world security agreements and have blamed this development current conflict in Ukraine which is believed to have triggered the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Russia's nuclear doctrine affects Ukraine by influencing regional security undercurrents, complicating diplomatic efforts, and raising the stakes in any military confrontation. Managing these challenges requires robust international engagement, conflict resolution efforts, and adherence to global disarmament and non-proliferation norms.

Russia's modernization of its nuclear arsenal fuels global arms competition, challenging strategic stability. Geopolitically, trust and transparency with other nuclear states, especially North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States, are critical to avoid misunderstandings and escalation. The potential humanitarian impact of nuclear conflict underscores the urgency for disarmament and peace initiatives aligned with Sustainable Development Goals which requires global cooperation and adherence to international diplomatic and security agreements for a safer world.

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CDS Africa

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