In a veiled warning to the US, Russia has issued a statement declaring that it will perceive any ballistic missile launched towards its territory as a nuclear attack that will warrant a nuclear retaliation.
In an article published in the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) senior officers of the Russian military’s General Staff, Major Gen. Andrei Sterlin and Col. Alexander Khryapin, stated that since there will be no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead hence the military will see it as a nuclear attack.
The article follows the publication in June of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy that envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to what could be a conventional strike targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.
“Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead,” the article said. “The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation.”
With further deterioration in Russia-US ties in the post-Cold War era due to the accusations of Russian meddling in the US 2016 Presidential election and other differences, the harsh warning is seen in connection with the US developing long-range non-nuclear weapons.
Earlier, Russia has criticised US’ missile defence program and its plans to put weapons in orbit saying that the such a capability will allow Washington to strike Russia with impunity in the hope of fending off a retaliatory strike.
The statement is reflective of Moscow’s longtime concerns about the development of weapons that could give Washington the capability to knock out key military assets and government facilities without resorting to atomic weapons.
In line with Russian military doctrine, the new nuclear deterrent policy reaffirmed that the country would not withhold using nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack or aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the state.”
“Russia has designated the ‘red lines’ that we don’t advise anyone to cross,” said the report. “If a potential adversary dares to do that, the answer will undoubtedly be devastating. The specifics of retaliatory action, such as where, when and how much will be determined by Russia’s military-political leadership depending on the situation.”
The document further offered a detailed description of circumstances that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons, including the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or its allies.
The document stated that Russia wouldn’t hesitate to use its nuclear arsenal for the first time if it receives “reliable information” about the launch of ballistic missiles targeting its territory or its allies and also in the case of ”enemy impact on critically important government or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the incapacitation of which could result in the failure of retaliatory action of nuclear forces.”
The published article maintained that the publication of the new nuclear deterrent policy was intended to unambiguously describe what Russia sees as aggression.