Terrifying leaked military files have revealed that Russia’s threshold for launching nuclear weapons is lower than ever feared.
According to the documents, Kremlin forces have already rehearsed scenarios for tactical attacks at an early stage of a conflict with a global power.
A total of 29 secret Russian military files from between 2008 and 2014 are covered, including details on how war games could play out and presentations for naval officers, which discuss the operating principles for using nuclear weapons.
A possible nuclear response could be triggered if an enemy enters Russian territory, but there are also more specific examples, such as the destruction of 20 percent of Moscow’s strategic ballistic missile submarines, according to the classified documents, seen by the Financial times and reviewed by experts.
“This is the first time we are seeing documents like this in the public domain,” Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin, told the publication.
A possible nuclear response could be triggered if an enemy enters Russian territory, according to more specific examples, such as the destruction of 20 percent of Moscow’s strategic ballistic missile submarines, according to the classified documents.
This screenshot taken from a video distributed by the Russian Ministry of Defense on April 20, 2022 shows the launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile at the Plesetsk test range, Russia.
Russian soldiers load a rocket onto a Grad rocket launcher on a mission to an undisclosed location in Ukraine.
“They show that the operational threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is quite low if the desired result cannot be achieved by conventional means.”
Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons can be transferred by land, by sea-launched missiles, or by use of aircraft.
They were built for limited combat use in Europe and Asia, while larger “strategic” weapons for hitting targets were made in the United States.
The files date back more than a decade or more, and experts maintain that they are not out of line with Russia’s modern military doctrine.
The plans highlight long-standing fears of China among Russian security figures, even as Putin began to form ties with Beijing, which saw a no-first-strike nuclear deal reached in 2001.
As ties strengthened, the documents show that Russia’s eastern military district was preparing for various scenarios that could unfold from an invasion by China.
The scenarios share a sense of how Moscow views its nuclear weapons as central to its defense policy.
One example shows that Russia, called the “Northern Federation” in the war game, could retaliate with a tactical nuclear strike to prevent “the South” from advancing with a second group of invading troops.
China’s Foreign Ministry said there was no reason to suspect Russia.
“The Treaty of Good Neighborhood, Friendship and Cooperation between China and Russia has legally established the concept of eternal friendship and not enmity between the two countries,” a spokesperson told the Financial Times.
A still image from a video, released by the Russian Defense Ministry, shows what is said to be a Russian nuclear-powered submarine sailing during the Umka-2022 military exercises in the Chukchi Sea in September 2022.
Putin’s spokesman said today that “the ‘threat theory’ has no market in China or Russia,” adding: “The main thing is that the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is absolutely transparent and detailed in the doctrine “.
The spokesman stated that Russia seriously doubts the authenticity of the mentioned documents.
A training presentation for naval officers, which was not directly related to China’s war games, detailed broader criteria for launching nuclear weapons against a target.
An enemy entering Russian territory, the defeat of units tasked with securing border areas, or an upcoming enemy attack using conventional weapons were listed.
Last week, a close Putin aide and former president warned the West that Russia is capable of starting a nuclear war by accident.
Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of Putin’s security council, told “helpless” Western leaders that they are miscalculating the risk of nuclear war as both a deliberate decision by Putin and a terrifying accident.
“This same clock, which is ticking in a certain direction, has now greatly accelerated,” Medvedev warned, pointing out the “clear threat to all of humanity.”
“And in this I also see the inability, sorry, the impotence of these Western authorities,” he added.
‘(They) keep saying the same thing: “No, it’s the Russians who are scaring us, they never will.” You are wrong.’
It came just days after the former president threatened that Russia could nuke the United Kingdom, the United States, Ukraine and their supporters if Moscow is forced to give up occupied territories.
He said: ‘Attempts to restore Russia’s 1991 borders will lead to only one thing: a global war with Western countries with the use of our entire strategic (nuclear) arsenal against Kiev, Berlin, London and Washington.
“And against all the other beautiful historical sites that have long been included among the flight targets of our nuclear triad,” he added, referring to Russia’s range of nuclear weapons.
Critics say the threats from Medvedev, one of Russia’s most hawkish pro-war commentators, are empty.
But recent rhetoric has underscored how willing Russia might be to use nuclear weapons if cornered and faced with the loss of occupied territories.
Medvedev reaffirmed threats that Russia would be willing to resort to nuclear war if necessary.
“As sad as it may seem, this (nuclear war) scenario is real,” Putin’s outspoken lackey said in his most recent speech.
“We must do everything we can to prevent this from happening.”
‘If it is about the existence of our country, and I said this recently, what option is left for the (Russian) leaders, for the head of state?’ he continued.
And he added, unequivocally: “Unfortunately, this is a real threat, a direct and clear threat to all of humanity.”
‘And secondly, there are also accidents, from which no one is immune. And the accidental and involuntary start of a nuclear conflict cannot be ruled out.
“So all these games around Ukraine are extremely dangerous.”
The former president – who held office from 2008 to 2012 – suggested days earlier that London and other Western capitals could be destroyed if Russia loses the war.
He asked rhetorically: ‘Will we have the courage to do this if the disappearance of a thousand-year-old country, our great Homeland, is at stake, and the sacrifices made by the people of Russia over the centuries will be in vain? The answer is obvious.’
He suggested at the time that kyiv and the West should allow Putin to have the areas of Ukraine that he considers Russia.