Putin's nuclear weapon playbook

Terrifying leaked military files have revealed that Russia's threshold for unleashing nukes is lower than ever feared.

The Kremlin's forces have already rehearsed scenarios for tactical strikes at an early stage of a conflict with a global power, according to the documents.

A total of 29 secret Russian military files penned between 2008 and 2014 are detailed, including details on how war-gaming could play out and presentations for naval officers, which speak of operating principles for nuclear weapons use.

A possible nuclear response could be triggered by an enemy entering Russian territory to more specific examples, such as the obliteration of 20 per cent 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 that we have seen documents like this reported 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 by an enemy entering Russian territory to more specific examples, such as the obliteration of 20 per cent of Moscow's strategic ballistic missile submarines

A Yars intercontinental ballistic missile is test-fired as part of Russia's nuclear drills from a launch site in Plesetsk, northwestern Russia, in 2022

Russian soldiers load a rocket into a Grad rocket launcher on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine

'They show that the operational threshold for using nuclear weapons is pretty low if the desired result can't be achieved through conventional means.'

Russia's tactical nuclear weapons can be transferred by land, missiles launched from the sea, or through the use of aircraft.

They were constructed for limited combat use in Europe and Asia, whereas bigger 'strategic' weapons were made for hitting targets in the United States.

The files date back over a decade and more, with experts arguing they are not out of line with Russia's modern military doctrine.

The plans highlight long-running fears of China among Russian security figures, despite the 71-year-old President forming ties with Beijing, in which a nuclear no-first-strike agreement was made in 2001.

As the ties strengthened, documents show that Russia's eastern military district was preparing for various scenarios that could play out from an invasion by China.

The scenarios share a glimpse of how Moscow sees its nuclear weapons as central to its defence policy.

One example shows that Russia, which is called the 'Northern Federation' in the war game, could retaliate with a tactical nuclear strike to prevent 'the South' from pushing forward with a second batch of invading troops.

China's foreign ministry said there was no cause for suspicion of Russia.

'The Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between China and Russia has legally established the concept of eternal friendship and non-enmity between the two countries,' a spokesperson told the Financial Times.

Russia has claimed its most potent nuclear missile, the 16,000mph hypersonic 'Satan-2', can destroy the UK

A still image from video, released by the Russian Defence Ministry, shows what it said to be a Russian nuclear-powered submarine sailing during the military drills Umka-2022 in the Chukchi Sea in September 2022

Putin's spokesperson said today that 'the 'threat theory' has no market in China and Russia,' adding: 'The main thing is that the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is absolutely transparent and is spelled out in the doctrine.'

The spokesperson said that Russia strongly doubts the authenticity of the documents mentioned.

A training presentation for naval officers, that was not directly related to the China war games, detailed wider criteria for launching nuclear weapons at a target.

An enemy entering Russian territory, the defeat of units tasked with securing border areas, or an upcoming enemy attack utilising conventional weapons were also listed.

Last week, a close Vladimir Putin aide and former president warned the West that Russia is capable of starting nuclear war by accident.

Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of Putin's security council, told 'impotent' Western leaders they are miscalculating the risk of nuclear war both as a deliberate decision by Putin - and a terrifying accident.

'This very clock, which is ticking in a certain direction, has now accelerated very much,' Medvedev warned, gesturing towards the 'clear threat to all of humanity'.

'And in this I also see the inability, excuse me, the impotence of these Western authorities.'

'[They] keep saying the same thing: "No, it's the Russians who are scaring us, they will never do it". They're wrong.'

It came just days after the ex-president threatened Russia could nuke the UK, US, Ukraine and its backers if Russia is forced to concede occupied territories.

'Attempts to restore Russia's 1991 borders will lead only to one thing - a global war with Western countries with the use of our entire strategic (nuclear) arsenal against Kyiv, Berlin, London, and Washington.

'And against all other beautiful historic places that have long been included in the flight targets of our nuclear triad,' he said, referring to Russia's range of nuclear weapons.

One of Russia's most aggressive pro-war commentators, critics say Medvedev's threats are empty.

But recent rhetoric has stressed how ready Russia could be to use nuclear weapons if cornered and facing the loss of occupied territories.

Medvedev reaffirmed threats Russia would be willing to resort to nuclear warfare if needed

'Sad as it may sound, this [nuclear war] scenario is real,' said the outspoken Putin lackey in his most recent address.

'We must do everything we can to prevent it from happening.'

'If it comes to the existence of our country, and I said this recently, what choice is left for the [Russian] leadership, for the head of state?' he went on.

He added, unequivocally: 'So this is, unfortunately, 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, unintentional start of a nuclear conflict cannot be discounted.

'So all these games around Ukraine are extremely dangerous.'

The former president - who served 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 Motherland, 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 Kyiv and the West should allow Putin to have the bits of Ukraine he thinks of as Russia.


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