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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 11:22 GMT
Analysis: Russia faces realities of war
topol
Russia's nuclear arsenal is still primarily viewed as a deterrent
By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Russia's new national security concept places a greater reliance upon nuclear weaponry, but the document also provides a broader sense of Russia's world-view which indicates the potential for continuing tensions with the West.

The new security concept corresponds to a harsh reality that Russia's military planners and its political leaders have understood for some years.

Military planners believe that nuclear weapons might be used to repel armed aggression if all other means have failed

Since the end of the Cold War the decline of Russia's conventional forces - exemplified by its continuing military problems in Chechnya - means that nuclear weapons have become even more important in its defence thinking.

Russia's nuclear arsenal is still seen as primarily a deterrent force - to prevent an attack by another nuclear armed power.

But in the past nuclear weapons were only to be used in the most extreme circumstances.


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Nuclear weapons were in the past to be used only in extreme circumstances
Now Russian military planners believe that nuclear weapons might be used to repel armed aggression if all other means have failed.

In other words nuclear weapons are not seen just as a deterrent they are actually perceived as being useful in certain types of conflict.

The change in doctrine effectively constitutes an admission that the decline in Russia's conventional forces is going to be difficult to stop.

A recent Russian exercise envisaged the firing of nuclear weapons during an imaginary western attack on Kaliningrad when its conventional units were on the point of being overwhelmed.

Military threat grows

This shift in strategy is going to cause some unease in the West. Not least because the overall tone of the Russian document suggests a world where the military threats to Russia are growing.

The new Russian emphasis on nuclear weapons will encourage arms control advocates to press the Clinton administration to step up its efforts to conclude new nuclear disarmament agreements with Moscow.

But for the moment Washington appears more interested in developing strategic defences rather than relying upon treaties as the basis of its security.

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